How Do You Differentiate Yourself From Your Competitors?

I recently acquired a new client that is a competitor of a site to which I’m personally loyal. At a neighborhood party, I overheard someone mention this new client, so I asked if he’d ever been to the other site (the one I’m so personally loyal to), and he had never heard of them.

Conflicted, I started telling him why I was loyal to my non-client site, and he explained why he was loyal to my client site. I realized that they both offered a unique service that wasn’t found elsewhere (as far as I can tell) and those offerings were very different from each other. They are equally awesome in their own way and appealed to us because of what we wanted out of the sites. I usually go for convenience over price, but he’s just the opposite.

I’m sure that if we polled the other guests at the party (which would be absurdly annoying, yet enlightening), we’d get even more variations about what would make one loyal to a site.

Over the years, we’ve worked with several batches of sites that were competitors of each other (although not at the same time, of course). The ones that offered something unique were the easiest to build links for, and trickiest were the ones that didn’t make the effort to offer something that no one else offered.

It’s no longer enough to have the lowest price or best selection. You have to stand out in some other way. Below are 5 examples of sites that are doing things to totally stand out in their niches.

Disclaimer: I’ve done business (on a personal level, not an agency level) with all of these examples.

1. Take Something Tedious And Make It Incredibly Easy & Convenient

Warby Parker has a home try-on for their eyeglasses, and it’s free. You get 5 days to try on glasses in an environment without fluorescent track lights and/or pushy salespeople. Best of all, you don’t have to drive anywhere, deal with parking and wait impatiently. The last time I bought glasses, the lady selling the frames said she didn’t like my choice. Actually, she said, “I hate them on you.”

I said, “I love them. I’ll take them.”

“Well, I hate them,” she repeated. None of this at Warby Parker!

Warby Parker

2. Give To Charity

Tom’s Shoes donates a pair of shoes for every pair they sell. They’ve added on a vision program as well, so buying glasses from them helps someone else get glasses, have necessary eye surgery, or get medical treatment.

After they started becoming more well-known, other companies followed suit and started doing a one-for-one donation (see above Warby Parker screenshot). So what did Tom’s do? They evolved their giving.

Toms Shoes

3. Have The Best Warranty

LL Bean will exchange or refund anything they’ve sold you, at any time. I personally tested this years ago after my dog, Kinsey, ate the zipper off my backpack.

I contacted them to ask if they had suggestions on repairing the zipper as it was totally my fault and not their defective product, but you know what? They sent me a free new backpack anyway. I’ve never bought a backpack from any other company.

LL Bean

4. Give Us Something Useful For Being A Customer

Birchbox is a monthly beauty service where you get points for purchases and reviews. You can use your points for discounts; so, after you’ve bought a few things and reviewed them, you’ll end up with a $10 coupon.

They don’t even have to publish your review to award you the points, either.


5. Give Your Email Subscriber List Discounts Or First Access

My husband received an email offering us discounted tickets to Aladdin, which is premiering on Broadway next year. We got tickets for about half of what they would be if we waited and bought them in the spring.


These kinds of things win more customers and keep existing ones, and that all leads to the chance for more social and offline love — which hopefully equals more links.

They’re obviously beneficial in other ways, too. (If you’re actively pursuing links, you have something awesome to point out to bloggers and webmasters, of course.) An email list can be useful for announcing just about anything, for example. Having a great warranty means people keep coming back to buy from you. Offering something that is unique and that your customers want is just good business sense.

Two Critical Things To Remember To Do

1. Ask a client what makes them unique. Maybe you haven’t yet found a service that they offer, so always make sure you ask. I went through rounds and rounds of emails with a prospective client and then when we had our first phone call, I included my husband (who is our CEO) and he asked the client that question. The answer was more enlightening than anything I’d learned so far, so I always ask this now.

2. If you are the client, tell your marketers as much as possible about what you offer. Sometimes we get tunnel vision, and as bad as it sounds, we don’t always visit your site every single day (ahem), so if you add something new, let us know, please. Please.