As we pass through life most of us prefer to be regarded as normal. Fitting into complex social structures, whether they be with friends, family or work, just makes life easier. The ones that don’t fit generally have a tougher time all round.

Blue man

But when it comes to business, being different should be great. It’s the only thing between you and a sea of hungry competitors chomping aggressively at your heels. As a designer by trade, I’m always amazed by how conservative many businesses are when it come to their communications. I’ve often seen that fear in the eyes of a client when that bright ‘orange’ design is presented, and I get a real sense that this really doesn’t fit into the ‘blue’ world of our sector. Great!

So distinguishing your business, its products or services from your competitors, and making it more attractive to your customers, is everything. And the last point is the important one. If after all of your efforts to differentiate yourself your customers don’t get it, then nor will you.

Differentiation comes in many shapes and sizes, but it should always have a focus. The list of stuff that could make you stand out is extensive but includes pricing, quality, service, expertise and convenience. Whatever your business leads with, it has to represent a truth that your customer will experience every single time they interact with you. That’s 100% of the time.

Telling the world is the just first step and often the area that is most focused on. Painting the outside of the business whilst ignoring the inside simply means, at the most, short-term.

Which isn’t to say that differentiation has to be built on an existing strength as this may not be what your customer really wants, but it has to be built on a visible strength that can be demonstrated and tested time and again. So maybe it’s something that needs addressing or fixing before you stick your head above the parapet.

There is lots of information on our website about how we help brands to position themselves for whatever it is they want to achieve, so I’ll leave that to our strategists. However, what is clear to me is that any business needs to fully understand itself and its customers before it starts making too much noise. It’s pointless closing the stable door once the horse has bolted.