How to truly differentiate and stand out of the crowd

April 11, 2017 . by Aaron B

With so many web development agencies and other freelancers on the market, it can be hard to differentiate your offering. But making yourself (and your work) stand out from the crowd is paramount in these times of change.

If you simply type in a phrase like “web development” on Google, you soon realise that there’s a lot of competition out there. Why should someone hire anyone of the companies listed in the results? How can you clearly communicate what you are doing better?

Aside from doing great work, there are a few tips I want to share today. These are all great strategies that I’ve learnt over the years to stand out from the competition.

  1. Choose your market

Any time you offer something the competition doesn’t, you make yourself more appealing to a subset of the overall market that’s interested in that something different you offer. Whether you are serving a specific industry or a local market, the fact that you are specialised in your niche will appeal more to some people as you’ll probably understand their language and know their needs. You may appeal to fewer people overall, but what you are selling matches much more tightly with what a certain group of people are buying, increasing the odds that they will use you.

  1. Know who you are talking to inside-out

Knowing your client’s needs is vital when trying to land a new contract. If you take the time to thoroughly research their business and how it fits into their industry, you’ll be more likely to make a good impression. If a potential client comes to you for an upgrade or overhaul of their existing site, you can get some handy clues from this. Pay attention to the messages they are promoting and what they are trying to achieve with their current site. Checking out other businesses in the same field can give you an edge in this area as well, as you can bring suggestions and ideas from competitors that may not have crossed their mind otherwise.

  1. Constantly improve

If you actually care and make an effort to constantly improve your services, you’ll do a much better job for your clients. This alone will put you light years ahead of some competition. A few simple things you can do to implement a continuous improvement mindset are

  • Put your passion in what you do
  • Keep your skills fresh and up to date
  • Keep updated with new tools and trends
  • Listen to your client’s feedback and adjust accordingly

If you can show that your work is great, you care about your clients and you deliver on time and within the agreed budget, referrals will fly your way and referrals are the best kind of leads you will ever get.

  1. Exceed customer expectations

Under-promise and over-deliver. Be extremely realistic in what is achievable, how long it will take and how much it will cost. Never promise something you are not absolutely sure you can deliver just to make your client happy or to close the deal. If you have kept the expectations right (or low-ish) and everything runs smoothly during the project, you will end up over-delivering – and this can be a great thing! It is human nature to want to tell your friends and relatives about something truly special. If you are over-delivering on your clients’ expectations, you can be sure that somebody is going to hear about the amazing customer service they received or the top quality product they got for a really reasonable price. Simple concept but very powerful.

  1. Be helpful

Helping people out without charging them can be a great way to stand out and get your foot in the door. A quick example. Somebody is asking for help for their website on a Facebook group page. Normally, dozens of comments follow with long lists of everything that is wrong with that website and people offering their service, obviously expecting money in return. A different approach could be to put together a few bullet points with improvements that the people asking can do by themselves and will have a great impact. By just offering a little bit of help expecting nothing in return you will stand out, and in the end, this different approach can lead you to a contract (believe me, I’ve tried!).

My story of being unique

When I started my journey as a freelancer, I offered an extremely wide range of services but I soon realise that trying to appeal to everyone means appealing to no one. When you cast such a wide net you offer no compelling reason to choose you. You have no unique selling proposition.

 

As a general rule, when looking to differentiate, look to yourself, your competition, and your market. Look for gaps that aren’t being served and think about what you can do better than others. Think specialisation in order to reduce your competition and appeal more strongly to a smaller group of people, but think about great service too. Once you have found your positioning, work hard to keep it as your competition will not be standing still!