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Written by Kimberlie Williams
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Often one of the hardest things about beginning a tech startup is trying to stand out. This is where a brand differentiation strategy comes into play. Brand differentiation is essentially determining the strengths that set your business apart from the competition. Strengths can come from anything and everything under your company, whether they be specific to your tech, your pricing, your business model, your website, the friendliness of your staff, your store layout—you name it. Anything applies as long as that strength is unique or rare to your business. This is why it can be presented as a deciding factor consumers within your industry. Brand differentiation helps companies stand out from the competition and step into their own to acquire customers based on their own natural strengths. 


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It’s a process that takes research. Many businesses are aware of their own strengths, but it’s important to get the point of view of your customers as well, as they are the ones willing to pay for it. Interview your customers or read through their reviews and social media opinions. Third-party reviews and comparisons also work well for picking up what your differentiation strategy may be. The goal is to become well informed on all your strengths and then focus on which are more unique to your business, which means that your team should do similar same research on your immediate competitors as well. 

It’s important to note that your team should go for the strategy that best aligns with their natural strengths, so that this differentiation strategy will not only be less costly and difficult to implement, but come off as authentic. Studies have shown that people overwhelmingly prefer authenticity, rather than someone simply trying to make a quick buck.

Now let’s take a look at several examples of where you could focus your brand differentiation strategy.


1. Your Company Could Target An Underrepresented Customer 

Paying careful attention to trends in your customers will help your team pick up on an underrepresented customer. This customer is one that has a small but passionate base within your customers, but isn’t specifically being targeted by your company. It’s important to determine if there are enough of these customers out there that a targeted approach would be profitable.

A few years ago, Apple noticed that many of their new customers were grandfathers and grandmothers who were using smart phone technology for the first time. They capitalized on this with ads focusing on how iPhones can create connections between grandparents and their grandchildren, no matter the distance. In-store, Apple engages their elderly customers in onboarding by helping them set up their devices and begin using them before they leave the store. Apple also does well to explain their tech in a way that even the non-tech savvy could understand, setting them up for success.


2.Your Company Could Capitalize Early on Innovative Technology

People often think of innovative technology as something entirely new and crazy a mad scientist cooks up on a stormy night in an R&D department, but more often than not, innovation comes from taking something that already exists and making it better. Innovation can be as simple as improving processing speeds or making something less costly to produce to be a game changer for many companies.

 Your team should also be observant of any emerging technology in your industry that would drastically improve operations. If your company has the resources, dedicating an R&D team to underdeveloped technology that has growth potential in your industry is essential. It can put your company in the position to be a specialist in an emerging technology well before everyone else sees the hype. Getting a head start can often make a huge difference in implementing new technology that acquires customers, but remember that in the end who does it ‘best’ in consumer eyes is who wins the war.

For example, many healthcare companies are seeking blockchain specialists. Blockchain technology would help them centralize, protect, and keep track of their customer data in far more efficient and less costly manner, saving the industry millions. There are leaders emerging, but no clear winners, which makes many blockchain specialists poised to reap the benefits.


3. Your Company Specializes in An Industry

This approach is mainly utilized by two types of businesses: The first is started by someone who developed their tech out of the need for it another industry and the second is a company that has gained a deep understanding of an industry through its customers. When you possess deep knowledge about the challenges and ambitions specific to an industry and inject that into your tech, you will find that your company attracts customers who work in that industry.

People use tech to meet a need and make their lives a little easier, so anything that makes that clear and shows results is bound to get their attention. If your team can market to these customers well enough, you may even be able to draw them away from your competitors.


4. Your Company Could Offer Quality Content

If your strength is industry knowledge and strong written and communication skills, content marketing is another way to differentiate. Content marketing is offering your target audience helpful content like videos, blogs, and social media posts that guides them in facing challenges and reaching goals specific to their their industry. The useful information content marketing provides not only draws in customers, but also helps retain existing customers. Content marketing will also position your company as a trusted authority in your industry and bring in more interest and respect to your business, and subsequently, trust that your tech is some of the best. 

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5. Your Company Could Provide a Specific Standard

If your company has fine-tuned a specific standard to the point where your company is known for it, that’s also a differentiation factor. It could be anything from faster higher quality, reliability, lower latency, lower cost, a variety of features, faster customer response, tailored personalization, timelines to superior customer service and beyond. As long as your company can consistently check off all the requirements that make this standard reach a level higher than most of your competition, then it is what sets your company apart and you can market it to acquire more customers.


6. Your Company Could Provide a Different Business Model

In a sea of subscriptions for the same monthly rate, try to offer your audience a different business model than your competitors. If your team is good at collecting from investors, argue that people are willing to pay more for more personalization configurations and better quality.

Try to think of new avenues for your tech as well. Netflix was able to capitalize early by delivering their entertainment through streaming. Potential new delivery models should not be overlooked. Ultimately, listen to your customers to pick up on the changes they want to see in the industry. It’s not always the first business that capitalizes on implementing this change that becomes the industry standard, but the one that does it the best in customers’ eyes.


7. What if None of This Applies? Partnering Up is a Possibility

Sometimes joining forces with another company is what it takes to overcome the competition and take a bigger chunk out of your industry’s market. The best way to do this is to partner up with the company that has strengths that complement your company’s weaknesses and vice versa. Companies can go about this several ways. They could merge into one company. Companies could form a strategic alliance for one project or product line. A small and more innovative company could also be acquired by a more influential and powerful one. For example, there’s a trend of A.I. startups being acquired because they provide innovative solutions that maximize revenue and minimize cost in many different industries.


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