How To Distinguish Yourself from the Crowd

distinguish yourself from the crowd
So here’s the situation: you’re running a small business that services widgets or sells gizmos—and, just your luck,  there happen to be a dozen other people running the same small business in your area.

Here’s the problem: you’re working day and night to provide top-notch customer service and to deliver a high-quality product. The other guys, aren’t. The other guys are doing such a poor job that they’re giving your whole industry a bad image.

How do you distinguish your small business from the rest of the crowd? It’s actually pretty simple, read on to find out.

Don’t do what the crowd is doing

This is pretty straight forward advice, and you’re probably already following it if you’re in the above situation.

Let’s say your company really does provide an excellent service—and your customers know it. The difference between your product and the other guys’ products is night and day. In fact, the difference is so clear that people are completely sold as soon as they work with you.

There’s just one issue. Your customers have to decide who to go with before actually working with you.

Unfortunately, just having a better product or offering a better service isn’t quite enough.

Show you’re above the crowd, before the sale

Since your customers are making the buying decision before working with you, it’s crucial to show your differences before the sale.

We know that in practice they (the crowd) are cutting a lot of corners, and not doing as good of a job as you are.

But how about in show? Are there some defining characteristics that might alert people to their lack of quality, things you can avoid? Are there things you can do to highlight your level of service and better product?

  • Are they using pushy sales tactics? Then be friendly.
  • Do they print their own business cards? Get yours professionally.
  • Are they refusing to give free samples or trials? Offer them.
  • Are their materials full of cheesy rhetoric? Be authentic.
  • Do they show up late for appointments? Show up early.
  • Is their website crappy or nonexistent? Get a good one.

There are many other little things that you might be able to do differently from the noise—it just takes a little time thinking objectively. How can you make it clear that you stand head and shoulders above the competition?

In the end, it comes down to this: Be different from the crowd, and show it.

Reader Comments

Nov. 30. 2007 1:47 PM


Haven’t you put up a bit of an “Aunt Sally” to be shot down here (please excuse the English colloquialism).

For most of us, the challenge is not how to differentiate ourselves from such an obviously weak competitor - but how to differentiate from a competitor who’s read all the same books & blogs we have. One with friendly sales tactics, professional business cards, free samples, authentic communication, good time-keeping and a strong website? In reality, that’s more likely to be the situation we face - especially with the widespread availability of basic advice like this for free.

So, how to differentiate in these situations?

I think it comes back to your original point that you need to demonstrate your differences before the sale. But not just with the “trimmings”. Show them the meat. Demonstrate (without showing off) your deep xpertise and/or capabilities. Demonstrate how great (collaborative, insightful, fun, results-oriented) you are to work with. In other words, show them what it would be really like to work with you as a person. At the end of the day, your greatest differentiator is you.


PS - You’re using the word “flak” in a strange way here - I take flak to mean criticism - do you have a different meaning?

Nov. 30. 2007 9:56 PM

Hi Ian,

Actually, I did not mean for this article to be an “Aunt Sally.” I was influenced to write it by an actual question I was asked when presenting to a trade group.

Their profession was swamped with people just jumping in and out of it, and doing a bad job. They didn’t need to compete with equals, they needed to compete with the masses.

On your point about showing more of yourself before the sale—I think you’re spot on. I think in a situation where you are competing with others of similar caliber, highlighting your unique differences is key.

Thanks for the very insightful comment,

- Mason

PS: You aren’t the first to point out my odd usage of the word flak. I have since changed it to the simpler (if slightly less accurate) word “crowd”

Dec. 2. 2007 11:03 PM

Well to make yourself noticeable it is really quite easy. I work at a certain company, no name will be given though, and they really have quite terrible customer service. The company tries, but it is the employees. So they should try to get some real people working with real experience instead of the everyday idiot teenager who thinks they can be rude to every adult. Easy enough?

Dec. 3. 2007 8:04 PM

11.  I agree that excellent customer services can make a large difference, but how do you get people to see your customer service skills?  Advertising yourself in multiple arenas is how you get the customers.  Customer service is how you keep the customers you have and keep new ones coming via word of mouth.  Advertising yourself in person (cold calling), so they know who and what exactly they will be receiving is how you start.  A great way to advertise is by getting involved in your company’s local community: charities, balls/galas, local college functions, etc.  How many times have you thought I would much rather give my money to this company because I know they feed the starving kids of our streets verses that company that decorates their building real nice during the holidays?  Charity is a very powerful motivator.  Your company and you give a chance to help the world around us while helping yourself.

Dec. 4. 2007 8:51 PM

I would like to suggest that we can very easily distinguish ourself from a crowd in our business life as well as personal life. What we need to know is how to deal with people and how to impress them. the points laid above are really helpful.
I would also like to mention that giving away free gifts with every purchase is the best and the easy way out. One more point might be helpful is that one must have a good name for his business with a eye-catching caption.

Dec. 15. 2007 2:46 PM

very interesting, but I don’t agree with you

Dec. 15. 2007 6:55 PM

Idetorce — I’d love to discuss what you don’t agree with, unfortunately your comment is silent in that regard. If you happen to swing by again, by all means elaborate.

- Mason

cosuri cadou
Feb. 28. 2014 5:06 PM

You know that being different or distincitve isn’t always good for your image, right?

peruvian hair
Jun. 18. 2014 4:06 AM

Peruvian Hair This was really something very special and interesting

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