Drowning In Competition? – Here’s Your Lifeline

We all joke about taking out the competition. Today, for a lot of us competition is global too. Our customers have too much choice and therefore they have all the control over the buying process. But with a bit of creative thinking, you can narrow their focus and take back some of that control.

In marketing your company you probably touch all the bases and try to impress upon the customer your entire scope of services. Are you aware that this is probably adding to your woes by INCREASING competition? The very message you believe is making you stand out is actually having the opposite effect. Your message just blends with everyone else’s because your competition are all saying the same thing.

Lifeline from competition

Take a break from this article and go look at your competitors right now. My guess, (if experience is any teacher) is that they and you could be singing from the same song sheet. This similarity is typical in small business. Many companies play follow the leader. You don’t just want to be one of your customers choices you want to be their ONLY choice.

Consider the following scenario – it could be the solution to consider:

Our example is a home renovation business. Currently they promote themselves as experts in windows, doors, roofing, siding, general repair and major renos.

Who is their competition?

Well, it’s everyone who does ALL the services they do, AND all the companies who do just windows AND all the companies who do just doors AND all the companies who do just roofing AND all the companies who do just siding AND all the companies who do just general repair AND all the companies who do just renos, AND any companies who do any combination of these.

Because they are all services to all people, they inherit an enormous crowd of competitors. With each service they add to their promotional roster they increase their competition accordingly, and thus increase the difficulty to attract good customers. It’s not that it is impossible to accomplish, just harder and more expensive, (you know). Wouldn’t it be great if they could get out from under all that competition and allow themselves to focus their resources on building better relationships that make them more money?

Their solution is to focus on ONE COMPELLING REASON A CUSTOMER SHOULD CONSIDER BUYING FROM THEM. To branding experts this is the “unique selling point” (USP). To our home renovators it is the pot of gold. What ever we call it, it is the reason you exist and the reason people do business with you. Taking our home renovation company as an example, they have to decide on one fabulous offer to differentiate themselves from the competition. The USP has to be big enough to make a difference in their customer’s mind compelling them to try them out. Narrowing the focus of their offer, allows them to put all their marketing funds to work selling from ONE strong unique position of strength.

I’m not suggesting that they stop doing all the services, it’s just that they go to their marketplace promoting ONE compelling offer instead of the 6 they currently promote. And let’s say that this offer is, while the renovations are happening they will put the family up in a hotel until the job is done. (remember – it’s just an example). This offer is probably something all the competition will say is nuts – they’ll lose their shirts etc. – BUT, what it does in the mind of the customer is to separate them from the crowd. It gets them noticed. It tells the customer that they take their comfort and wellbeing seriously. It’s probably something the competition will not immediately copy. It’s something they are first to market with, and with that they have a generous window of opportunity from which to benefit.

Since NOBODY else is doing this, they substantially reduce their competitive landscape. And by reducing the competition their marketing costs can be reduced. They can concentrate the “compelling offer” strategically to an appropriate demographic to greater effect. Employees are re-invigorated because of the fact they are no longer like everyone else. They stand out from the crowd. They represent a higher value in a potential customer’s mind. A compelling USP carries with it many positive side effects. The easier it is to attract the customer to your overall service the better your chances are to make more money. It goes back to something that I always keep in tune with – “lead, don’t follow”.

Think of companies who have done this effectively. Car rental – We pick you up … Pizza chain – 30 minutes or it’s FREE! … Soft drink – the uncola … Computer company – think different … International courier – overnight delivery … Any names come to mind? That’s branding and the power of a USP.

No matter what you come up with for your company, remember, if it scares you a little, you could be on to something great. You could be going out on a limb, but no doubt, you’ll be the only one out there.


  1. Dan, proposition is historically correct.

    Over the years, a number of my peers and books I’ve read somehow changed the “P” to point and it stuck with me. Since it referred to the same thing, I never saw the harm.

    Companies I’ve worked with helping to develop their USP have the hardest time staying focused on it. Sometimes it absolutely frightens them to stick to it. They are so accustomed to going to market telling the world all the things they do. But, when they finally get it, it empowers them. A grand thing to witness.

    Have a great week,


  2. Dan Chase says

    Thanks for a great article, Ed! I’m a firm believer in USP. However, when I first learned of it it meant “Unique Selling PROPOSITION”. Same intent of course, but for some reason I like it.

    As you describe, the finer-tuned we are in our niche, the easier we have it in the marketplace with less competition, as it also becomes easier to become experts in our USP. Nobody can beat us! We start out ahead, and keep building the gap behind us!

    The difficult part is the beginning. Getting clear on defining what our USP *is*. Many of us, including me, start our entrepreneurial adventures without a clearly defined niche. I have to say this is OK… however, we must keep our eye on refining what we are best at, and defining what our USP is. Then we will begin to pull ahead.

  3. Andy LaPointe says


    Really good article. I like the way you approach the USP.

  4. Thanks for dropping by Andy. I hope the article inspires business readers to take a hard look at how they position themselves and see if they can benefit.

    I enjoy writing here as it appears many readers are looking for answers for ways to increase their sales, and it’s good to have the opportunity to pass on our observations and also to learn from reader’s comments back to us.

  5. Hi Ed,

    This is a terrific series of articles you’ve put together. For several years now I’ve paid scant attention to branding with small business clients, but in the past 8 months, having rebranded my own business at the end of 2009, I have begun to appreciate just how important and useful it is.

    I’ll be coming back to read through the entire series and undoubtedly recommending that several of my clients take a look here, too.



  6. Thanks for the great compliment Lee. I’m glad you’ve found my articles helpful.
    You’re a great testament to paying close attention to your brand.