We live in a copycat world.  This holds true in business, in entertainment (do we really need yet another American Idol knockoff?), in sports, and elsewhere.  When a popular new idea pops up, you can count on it being imitated immediately.  As a result, our lives are cluttered with businesses, entertainers, sports figures, and ideas that all look and sound the same.

As business owners, our challenge is to NOT look and sound the same as our competition.  By standing out within your industry and your market, you’ll set yourself apart from the competition in the minds of your customers and prospects.
And that is a sure recipe to gain business and loyalty from your clients.  Below are three tips to help you stand out in your market:

Focus on your niche.  The most effective way to stand out among your competition is to remove your competition.  There are many landscapers, for instance, but how many are there that work only with million-dollar homes on a specific lake?  By focusing on a specific target market, you can eliminate a huge percentage of the competition.  Instead of having to stand out among thousands of firms, you may only have to outdo three or four.

Make a strong guarantee.  Customer surveys have indicated that a critical determining factor in purchasing decisions is confidence.  Not service, not quality, not even price… confidence.  So guarantee everything you sell.  It may seem risky, but think it through.  You may have a few customers asking for their money back, but the amount of business you attract because of your guarantee will far outweigh any losses.  Offering a rock-solid guarantee is an incredibly effective way to stand out from your competition.

Think through your selling proposition.  What makes you different from your competitors?  What can your products do that no one else’s can?  What unique experience do you have that your competition can’t match?  Think hard about this—if you can’t identify a single trait that sets you apart, you need to reexamine your business model.  But the vast majority of you will be able to come up with a couple of things.  Once you’ve done that, make sure that these differentiating traits are a prominent part of your selling proposition.  Give your customer, clients and prospects reason to do business with you—and only you.

True success in business comes from standing out among your competition.  What can you do better than everybody else?  Once you answer that question in the minds of your prospects, you can count on a steady flow of new customers.