6 Ways to Discover Your Differentiator As A Small Business

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I’m Courtney Fanning the copywriting and brand strategy brains behind Big Picture. I use my literal master’s in selling stories to help 1:1 clients and DIY students write purpose-driven copy that sells and scales. 

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Written by Courtney
Copywriting & brand strategy brains behind Big Picture.

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As a small business owner, having a “differentiator” (also called your “unique selling point”) means possessing a unique attribute, feature, or characteristic that sets your business apart from the competitors in your niche. It’s essentially what makes your business stand out in the minds of consumers and distinguishes you from the thousands of other businesses offering similar products or services as you.

Business owners mistakenly think that communicating your differentiator means talking about why you’re the best. The best designer, the best coach, the best consultant, the best copywriting agency.

🚫 Your differentiator isn’t about being the best.

🧩 It’s about being the best fit.

It’s about communicating what you bring to the table that makes you the best fit for the type of people you want to work with.

Your differentiator is what makes you attractive to your audience.

In this post, we’ll explore 6 steps to uncover your differentiator.

6 Ways To Discover Your Marketable Differentiator

1) Identify Your Target Audience

First things first, you need to nail your niche and get crystal clear on your target audience. You’ll need to conduct audience research and create audience personas to gain insight into your audience’s inner monologue so you can tailor your offers and messaging to meet their specific needs.  

🔖 BP Resources to help you define your target audience and reverse engineer your brand messaging:

2) Identify Your Superpowers

Reflect on your strengths and core competencies, and how you acquired the skills you need as a service provider or product creator. Your differentiator could stem from your expertise, education, unique life path, innovative approach, or unique processes you developed to solve a problem more effectively. 

When working with BP clients, defining their differentiator is part of the brand strategy and copywriting process I love most because my superpower is helping my clients see the forest from the trees.

Gone are the days when you held the same job for 40 years, and very few of us entered a profession we studied in school. Part of my job is helping my clients find the common thread connecting all the parts of their story to create either a personal brand origin story or a business brand story that represents their mission and resonates with their ideal audience (ultimately leading to a sale, new member, inquiry call, or email subscriber.) 

By leveraging your brand’s strengths, you can create a competitive advantage that attracts the right people to your door.

To identify your strengths, ask yourself:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What soft skills do you excel at better than most people? (Personal qualities and traits that impact how you work. Examples: Empathy and communication.)
  • What hard skills do you excel at better than most people? (Competencies and abilities necessary to complete work or deliver a promise. Examples: Data analysis and financial modeling.)
  • Why do you have these talents or skills or how did you learn them?
  • What are the steps that led you or your business to where you are today?
  • What part of your brand story or business journey is likely to resonate with your target audience?

🔖 BP Resources to help you define your strengths and reflect on your value:

3) Identify your P.O.V.

The most underrated differentiation strategy is unabashedly communicating your point of view. This can feel challenging for two reasons: the first is that most people have never stopped to think about their beliefs and perspectives regarding business, and the second is that most business owners transitioning from corporate culture aren’t used to verbalizing unique or dissenting beliefs. (And tend to overthink…everything.)

If you need help surfacing your point of view as it pertains to your business, ask yourself:

  • Why did you start your business?
  • What are your personal and business values and how do they influence your decisions and interactions with your clients and customers? (I.e. Your business practices, your customer relationships, and the overall experience you provide.)
  • Are there any current trends or business practices you dislike or are vehemently opposed to participating in?
  • How does your P.O.V. influence your process or products?
  • Are there any best practices you don’t believe work in the best interest of your clients or customers? How does this influence your offers?
  • What’s your brand personality and why is it recognizable or memorable to others?
  • How does your brand personality influence how you communicate your P.O.V. with your audience?
  • What’s your brand voice and why is it recognizable or memorable to others?
  • How does your brand voice influence how you communicate your P.O.V. with your audience?
  • What’s attractive about your P.O.V., brand personality, or brand voice?

🔖 BP Resources to help you define your brand personality and brand voice:

4) Identify Your Value Proposition

Your value proposition is the value you promise to deliver to your clients and customers. But the real value prop opportunity is finding and communicating something your audience didn’t even know they wanted. For example, if you’re a wedding photographer, you’re not going to differentiate yourself by promising to “document your client’s love”. They know that already. You will stand out by telling them they’re investing in future family heirlooms that will be passed down for generations to come. Because what’s more valuable, a photo or an heirloom? Or maybe your brand promise is to source and deliver fine art prints and quality canvases made to last. This messaging raises your perceived value and encapsulates what makes your business unique and why customers should choose you over alternatives.

To define your value proposition, ask yourself:

  • What problem are you solving for your clients or customers?
  • What are the benefits and outcomes your target audience can expect from choosing your business?
  • What’s an unexpected benefit your clients and customers might not have thought about?
  • Fast forward a couple of years or decades from now—how has your business positively influenced your audience’s lives?
  • What type of client or customer are your offers perfect for, and what kind of person would be better off going with one of your competitors?
  • What makes your offers or solution a good fit for your ideal audience?
  • Why are you objectively better or different from others in the market for the type of people you serve?

5) Identify Your Unique Attributes

What makes your business special to the type of people you want to serve? Your answer could stem from the questions above like your origin story, values, company culture, sustainability practices, unique process, or white-glove personalized experience. Think about the aspects of your business that make you proud and excited about what you offer. Your unique attributes have the power to attract similarly-minded clients and customers who align with your brand ethos and vibe.

6) Identify Your Competitors

The key to analyzing your competitors without succumbing to comparisonitis is to take your emotions out of the equation. This is a fact-finding mission, not a recommendation engine.

Start researching your competitors:

  • Who do they serve?
  • What products or services do they offer?
  • What are they charging?
  • How are they positioning themselves?
  • What makes them memorable?
  • Can you identify gaps or opportunities where you can better serve your audience? (Are there any underserved segments, unmet needs, or areas where you can offer a unique value proposition that sets you apart from the competition?)
  • How are you similar and can you pinpoint areas where you can differentiate yourself?

Small Businesses Survive When They Know Their Key Differentiators

Discovering your differentiator is essential for small businesses looking to thrive in a competitive landscape. Your brand messaging hinges on your differentiator. It’s what sets you apart, makes you memorable, and ultimately attracts the right people to your brand. Whether you’re offering a product or a service, having a distinct differentiator can mean the difference between blending into obscurity and being a business people remember and want to buy from.


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