Every solopreneur needs a competitive edge — something that helps them stand out from the competition like an opera singer at a rock concert. Of course, when there are so many competing businesses that seem to offer similar services to your own, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out just what your competitive edge might be.
The good news is that finding (and defining) that “edge factor” isn’t as hard as you might think. With the right strategies, you’ll have no trouble making a big impression on your potential clients.
Make Your Competitors’ Weaknesses Your Strengths
Every industry is ripe with problems nobody can seem to solve … or can they? A lot of the time, these seemingly unsolvable problems exist because others in your industry simply don’t have the time, resources or know-how to address them.
But maybe you have what it takes. Instead of trying to find something to stand for, figure out what you stand against. What are the biggest problems you see with your industry? What is the competition doing (or not doing) that pisses you off? How would you make these things better?
When you make these problems nobody else is solving a point of emphasis, they’ll become a major strength. You’ll tap into underserved markets and instantly have a defining characteristic that sets you apart from the competition.
Niche Down, Niche Down, Niche Down…
Have you ever been to a restaurant where the menu feels more like a phone book? If there’s one thing you can be certain of in these places, it’s that you’re in for a mediocre meal.
There’s a reason why many of the highest-rated restaurants have a limited menu selection. By essentially “niching down,” they can focus on a few menu items that they can truly master to deliver an unforgettable dining experience.
On the other hand, the places that try to offer a bit of everything end up specializing in nothing at all. It’s the same with other service businesses. Trying to do everything at once really means that you can’t do anything particularly well.
This principle was brought up in a recent email conversation with Rachel O’Neal, an academic advisor at SpeedyPaper, a company that helps students produce and submit quality, academic essays. She explained, “Today’s clients are looking for specialists, not generalists. While a generalist may be able to help with more surface-level issues, a specialist who focuses on a particular sub-niche is going to bring knowledge and expertise nobody else can replicate.”
Continued O’Neal, “While niching down can shrink your potential audience, it makes you infinitely more appealing to those in need of your services. The more of a specialist you are, the more likely you are to become the go-to resource for that niche.”
Own Your Own Data (And Make Sure Others Know It’s Yours)
When you would create academic reports back in your college days, you would seek out only the best, most authoritative sources. Just about everyone has probably gone through the experience of having a teacher or professor shout that Wikipedia isn’t a valid source.
If you wanted to get a good grade, you had to find reliable information to craft your arguments. Prospective customers want essentially the same thing you did as a student: high-quality information. Only this time, it influences how they spend their money.
To make a real impression, become a person who owns, publishes and promotes your own data. Conduct your own case studies and research. Talk about what you find and why it backs up your arguments or your techniques. Don’t be afraid to plaster your name all over it, either! You don’t want someone else running off with your hard-won data.
When you can do this in a compelling manner, you’ll soon be seen as an industry authority, and clients who care about results will want to do business with you.
Drumroll, Please … Charge More!
As the old saying goes, “You don’t buy a Rolex to tell time.”
Going back to the restaurant theme from earlier, consider your expectations when you buy a $1 hamburger from McDonald’s, as opposed to buying a $15 burger from a nicer restaurant.
You’re expecting vastly different experiences, right? We kind of expect that McDonald’s burger to taste like soggy cardboard. But if the same thing happened at a place where you spent $15 to $20 for your burger, you’d complain — and understandably so.
Prestige pricing does a lot more than boost your margins. It appeals to buyers who aren’t looking for the cheapest possible solution. It signals to prospective clients that your services are a higher quality than the competition. After all, there’s no such thing as a cheap (or even affordable) expert.
In other words, it shows you’re a worthwhile investment. Choosing a cheaper competitor would be like picking something off the dollar menu. While this may narrow down your potential audience size, charging more will ultimately help you better target the high-end clients who deliver real value for the time you spend working for them.
Building Up Your Competitive Edge
Now that you know what you can (and should) change, you know what comes next, right? Actually enacting that change. All the talk in the world won’t help you establish a competitive edge.
You have to put the things you’ve learned about your business into action. Sure, some of these things may require a lot of effort, but they’re well worth it. By using these tactics to truly set yourself apart from the competition, you’ll gain an advantage that can’t be beat.