Don’t try to be unique, just be different

In the city where I live there is a landlord that has quite a large office portfolio.

When a business moves into one of his offices, their fibre-optic cables are already installed and telephone and Internet services are available within 24 hours. If you need a wall plug moved, it happens within 24 hours. You don’t need to get an electrician to come and do it for you. All vacated offices are repainted.

He has nearly 300 businesses in his office parks and an Intranet to which all tenants are connected. If a business moves into any of the office parks, it immediately has a potential market of nearly 300 other businesses and a few thousand individuals. And then he also offers a few other add-ons.

Is this landlord unique? Possibly. Possibly not.

Does he offer something different in his area? You bet.

Is his business model flawless? Probably not.

Is his business faultless? No.

Is it good enough? You bet it’s better than anything else that is available.

Does he have something to market? For sure.

Business owners are often urged to find something in which their business can be unique. I question that wisdom.

Finding something in your business that makes it unique, is quite easy. Finding something unique that matters, is another story.

Every business has at least one aspect in which it is unique. Probably the most basic unique characteristic of a business is where it is located – its physical address. It is not often that one finds two businesses in the same office and you will have to look hard to find two competing businesses in the same office.

If we accept that the word “unique” means “one of a kind” or “unlike anything else”, you can start listing your business’ unique characteristics by writing down your address.


Your location can be unique and can be less or more important, depending on what people expect.

Examples of when location can be important (not unique):

  • office buildings with easy access to main routes or public transport;
  • business accommodation near popular business districts;
  • a restaurant in a densely populated area;
  • guest houses near the beach;
  • a coffee shop with free wireless Internet in an area with many offices.
Quality of service

Fresh ingredients in restaurant dishes are not unique. It is a requirement.

Quality of service is rarely unique and if it is, it rarely stays unique for long because success is quickly copied.


Less 10% on the price is not unique and in fact not even a convincing sales tool. Less 70% may be!

Areas in which you may be different:


a dish on your menu

the way in which you deal with clients

where you source your products from

Forget the unique hype. Rather just find or create something that makes you different.

You have to be able to differentiate your business by communicating the capabilities that make you different. That makes it possible for potential customers to compare you favourably with the other choices they have.

How do you find something that makes you different?

The real question is “What do I have to offer to let my business stand out in the minds of potential customers?”

Know your customer:

Make sure that you have a crystal clear image of your potential customer in your mind. Don’t be too concerned to have a large number of potential customers. Be happy with less customers who spend repeatedly with you.

Articulate what you can do to solve the potential client’s challenge:

  • Formulate and practise an elevator pitch about your business. (Your business and how it solves your potential client’s problems in 70 words.) Read my blog post about the elevator pitch.
  • Make it measurable: “Give better service” is meaningless. “Your washing will be ready in two hours” is measurable.
  • Make it memorable: Think of the nicest thing a client said about your business. How can you build on that? Anything that already exists in your industry cannot make you memorable.
  • Make it different: If you deliver the same services or products as everyone else, make the difference how you deliver it, or find out from your customers what will make a difference to them. ( A good place to start is to listen what people complain about in your industry)
  • Make it easy: Make it more convenient to do business with you than with someone else.
  • Become an expert in your business: Know more than your competition about the area in which you do business, your products, your services and developments in your industry.
  • Tell the right people: Promote your business to a well-defined target audience. Remember that you can promote your business as widely as you would like, most people in the world will never hear about it.

My course “How to learn social media marketing in 15 sprints walks you through a process which leaves you with a well prepared social and off-line marketing plan.

Blog posts go to my newsletter subscribers about two weeks before it appears on my blog.

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