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Competing in the Internet Information Age – Differentiation is the Key

In this episode I talk about the key need for differentiation in your business by taking you on a real-life location at Lancaster Central Market.  Competition is all around, how do you set your business apart?  Let’s look at ways you can!

Competing in the Internet Information Age - Differentiation is the Key

Competing on the web today comes down differentiation. The internet has erased geographical barriers and given consumers more choices than ever. This globalization helps any small business compete around the world and with the big corporation in a way that has leveled the playing field like never before. While on the one hand this is a great thing and online marketing gives you increased exposure, on the other hand your small business also has to contend with more competitors and succeed in a larger pool with lots more fish!

In this episode we’ll dive into the keys for how to compete in this large global pond by using differentiation. Let’s dive in…

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VIDEO: Competing in the Internet Information Age
Differentiation is the Key

Diving into the Details:

Differentiation is the Key

What is differentiation?  It’s how you create a space for yourself by showing how you are unique…or “different” from others.  When services and price are somewhat similar, a brand needs to differentiate themselves to be the choice selected by their ideal audience.  

In the podcast episode and Youtube video I went live from Lancaster Central Market, the oldest continually operating farmer’s marketing in America, and took a look at how the market stands continue to thrive in a competitive market where big chain stores are all around.

Although you might be tempted to compete on price and be lower than the other guy, you’ll only be engaging in a race to the bottom that will hurt your business. Going low is not truly “differentiation”.  Some would say that is insanity! The solution is to stand out from the crowd!

How to Differentiate in the Internet Information Age

Having a unique selling proposition (USP) has everything to do with how customers perceive your brand. A positive perception means you can set higher prices even if your product isn’t particularly special. To differentiate successfully, consider the following ways to set yourself apart:

  • Always Maintain Top Quality

Never compromise on quality. Discerning consumers would rather buy a high-quality product at a higher price. Not everyone is interested in the cheapest offers. There are several ways of maintaining or improving quality.

If you’re in the food industry for example, like stands at the marketplace, always make sure your produce is fresh. Customers will notice this commitment to excellence and reward you accordingly.  At Central Market the stands continue to thrive on top quality, local grown, freshly harvested goods. As well, some of the stands specialize in locally grown, organic products. This commitment is something that big stores have trouble competing with and it’s what sets the market stand apart.

  • Offer Convenience

Your customers shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to buy your products and services. This is where smaller businesses have an advantage over large corporations. They’re more accessible and nimble, so they can serve customers faster and more professionally.

You can respond to feedback and implement suggestions faster, which further differentiates you from the rest. Customers are increasingly responding positively to companies that embrace ethical practices.

Examples include respecting the environment, promoting fair trade, saying no to child and forced labor, and providing fair working conditions. You could also differentiate yourself by being transparent, accountable and having a zero-tolerance policy towards all forms of discrimination.

In the market, the value is the convenience of knowing the fresh produce will be there and being able to walk downtown or from their office downtown and quickly pickup all the food items they need in one place.

  • Collaborate with Your Peers

Collaborating with businesses in the same area allows you to network with and come up with unique ways to promote each other and/or combine marketing efforts as well as the opportunity to learn from other owners about their challenges, failures, and successes.

Central market is essentially a big collaboration.  There is the building itself and each of the stands within it, all working together to help the customers have a great experience, find what they need, run joint marketing and make shopping there a routine.  

Combining knowledge and expertise helps you achieve your goals faster. Collaboration doesn’t mean giving up all your business know-how.  It means going farther by going together. By contributing to shared capabilities, you can achieve your goal of differentiation faster.

  • Cultivate Deeper Customer Relationships

The larger a company gets, the more out of touch it can become with consumers. Having a close relationship with your customers gives you an edge.

One of the ways the market is “sticky” is by the relationships the stand workers form with customers.  They talk, share, call them by name, and develop relationship with them over time. This forms a bond and a connection that helps strengthen repeat business.

Knowing that you care about them beyond the money they spend makes them more likely to become loyal. In an increasingly automated world, thoughtful gestures such as handwritten notes, shaking their hand, calling them by name, and remembering what they frequently order are an easy and affordable way of being unique.  Perhaps you don’t have a stand, but take a few minutes and think about how this type of deep relationship cultivating may be possible in your business with your customers.

As I wind down, hopefully you’ve seen from these real-life examples how differentiation makes a key difference in this internet information age.  The web makes things accessible, but being human and connecting builds loyalty and word of mouth sharing that can make all the difference. How’s your differentiation going?  Though your business may not be directly b2c in ways like this, let these examples spur your thinking and creativity to recognize areas your business can personalize, differentiate, and be more human to set your brand apart.  A clear branding strategy makes differentiation a smooth process. 

Once you’ve defined your unique selling proposition, maintain a consistent tone and image in all of your branding, marketing, and communication. This avoids any confusion among current and potential customers about your products and services.

Final Takeaway

Differentiating your business has immense benefits in a crowded market. For one, it allows you to escape the race to the bottom that is a hallmark of price wars. Having a unique identity means you can set prices that allow you to thrive while endearing you to your customers.

That’s a wrap this time!

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Why the Halftime theme Mike? 

I’m an Indiana Hoosier native where basketball is the top sport. Every team heads to the locker room at halftime to evaluate the first half and create an updated plan for the second half. That plan includes adjustments based on reviewing what worked and what didn’t. The “halftime” is a key review point where the game stops, the team pulls away to huddle in the locker room away from the fans, and they come out prepared and ready to succeed in the second half.

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