Similar But Different: How These Similar Brands Differentiate Their Offers

by 2 08/13/2013

It’s highly unlikely that your business idea is unique. The products you sell or the services you provide — other people have thought of them before.

But this doesn’t mean that you can’t be successful. One way to distinguish your business from other similar businesses is through positioning.

Check out these competing businesses to see how they use positioning to differentiate their products from each other:

FreshBooks vs. LessAccounting

Take the case of these 2 accounting web apps — FreshBooks and LessAccounting. Let’s break down how they differentiate themselves through positioning.

Primary Accessibility vs. Business Use Messaging:

For FreshBooks, their headline reads “Say Hello to Cloud Accounting,” followed by “Join over 5 million people using FreshBooks to make billing painless.”

FB-header

From this information alone, what we know about FreshBooks is that:

First, it’s on the Cloud, so there’s also an assumption that we’re familiar with the term. This implies that the people who would be attracted to the headline “Say Hello to Cloud Accounting” are somewhat tech savvy.

On a related note, the visuals also tell you subtly that it’s accessible via web/desktop, tablet, and mobile phone. It’s not yet clear if there are separate apps for that, but at least you know that it’s accessible.

Also, there are lots of people — individuals — using it. Though the reader hasn’t seen testimonials in the header yet, FreshBooks is already stating their customer numbers here.

This is reinforced later in the page when the testimonials are shown, plus at the end of the page are cute factoids about their stats:

FB-mbers

Notice how FreshBooks phrased their subhead as “over 5 million people.” Apart from that, there’s a teaser at the topmost part of the FreshBooks page, saying “Learn how to charge what you’re really worth” and it leads to an ebook.

FB-ebook

The copy on this teaser, plus the content of the book, shows that FreshBooks is primarily catering to individuals, freelancers, or consultants.

LessAccounting, on the other hand, said that they provide their software “for awesome businesses.” Plus, the video that welcomes you is from Jill, who ran 3 different businesses in the past 5 years.

LA-header

While you can be an individual running your own business (as a solopreneur, freelancer, or a consultant), LessAccounting’s messaging is primarily for small businesses with at least some staff.

This is also evident in the way that they’re not highlighting personal-use devices, such as tablets or smartphones, in the same way that FreshBooks does. Sure, you can probably access LessAccounting on your tablet or mobile phone if you really wanted to — they’re just not emphasizing that feature.

Also, LessAccounting claims in their subhead that they “suck the least.” This implies that LessAccounting is for users who have tried other accounting software, were frustrated with it, and need to find an easier solution.

They also have a lot of positive emotional messaging going on, by using words like “happiness,” “love,” and “smiling” all over the page.

Call-to-Action: Free Trial vs. Simplicity

For FreshBooks, their main call to action is “Try it Free for 30 days,” which is consistent across 3 different locations on the page. This seems to be an offer that’s more enticing to freelancers, who might not necessarily be willing to jump into a new paid app without trying it first.

LA-CTA-primary

Less Accounting has 2 different CTAs. “Get Started, it’s Simple!” and “Get Your Books Setup.” So rather than enticing people with a free trial, they’re hooking them with the idea that it’s very easy to get started (“Take 2 minutes and set up your books” or “you’re minutes away from happiness”).

Attracting a Secondary Market

LessAccounting also has secondary messaging. Apart from trying to attract businesses to use their product, they are also attracting accountants and encouraging users to invite their accountants to try it.

LA-accountant2

Basecamp vs. TeamworkPM

There are many options for online project management apps, and most of them offer the same features. For example, there’s Basecamp and TeamworkPM. They both offer task lists, file storage, discussions, and team collaboration, but their positioning is very different.

Primary Messaging: Lots of Users vs. Easy-to-Use

It’s clear from their homepage imaging and text that Basecamp’s primary message is that lots of other companies use their software (“Last week 5,896 companies signed up”). Part of the headline also reads, “Today it’s your turn,” addressing the reader directly.

basecamp
More importantly, this direct approach is used in a personable way, with a large customer photo right next to the form.

TeamworkPM, on the other hand, is primarily expressing how easy it is to use their app. From the headline “Project Management Made Easy!” to repeating it in their subhead (“easy-to-use”).

Plus, they promise that your team will be more productive as a result.

TW-productive

They repeat this message when you take a product tour. The key benefits they promote are “Deliver On-Time” and “Collaborate.”

Secondary Messaging: Everything Together vs. Feature-rich

Based on TeamworkPM’s design, it’s clear that they’re showing the many features, integrations, and other extras included in their app. So their secondary messaging appears to be that their app is feature-rich.

TW-features-2

When you check out Basecamp’s other features, you’ll notice that their main messaging on their features page is “Keeping everything together.” They reiterate this using other phrases like “centralize” or “all in one place” or “see everything at once.”

BASECAMP-one

What makes your business different?

Given the above examples, how do you craft unique positioning so that you can stand out from your competition? Here are some guide questions you can follow:

Primary Messaging

It helps to have a singular, primary message that’s reflected all over your branding materials. Ask yourself:

  • What are your target market’s primary problems/goals?
  • Among those problems/goals, which one can your business address the best? Or which one would you prefer to address?
  • What words do your target customers use to describe this goal or problem?
  • Review the above examples for primary messaging. What text or visuals can help you communicate to your audience that YOU are the one who can help them reach their goal or solve their problem?

Secondary Messaging

It also helps to have 1 to 3 additional messages to complement your primary message. In LessAccounting’s case, this was their appeal to accountants. For Basecamp, it was having everything in one place.

If you want to add secondary messaging, here’s the process:

  • Pick another of your target market’s goals or problems that you want to help them address.
  • How do they phrase this goal/problem? Use their own words to describe the goal or problem back to them.
  • Are there any other target markets you want to address? What needs do they have that your primary target market doesn’t have?
  • How and where can you insert this secondary messaging without overpowering your primary message or distracting from it?

By being careful about answering the above questions, you can successfully craft a unique positioning message for your business.

At the end of the day, if you promote your business as a solution for a very specific problem or for helping others achieve a very specific goal, it doesn’t matter how many competitors you have, or that they offer the same features.

About 

Pravin is a marketer and entrepreneur from New Zealand. He's also the founder of ContentForest, a blog for marketing professionals and business owners who use content to attract new leads.

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2 COMMENTS

John Gibb

Pravin

It’s highly unlikely that offers convert well the first time, thus we have to constantly adjust and split test, is it?

I differentiate my message by positioning myself as the super affiliate in the health industry… I own 300+ niche sites / aged domains and have 10 years online marketing experience in the field. These two advantages above is what makes me stand out.

Proven experience and results is what I deliver, and what my students get.

Hope it helps?

August 13, 2013 Reply

    allan branch

    John, the issue with split testing is you cannot gauge the impact on lifetime customer value which is the main goal on SAAS conversions. More customers, higher lifetime value. Sure you might force more signups using “test A” but you have customers that are less engadged and cancel sooner. I wish I knew all the right answers but a/b testing on saas apps like ours are flawed or only give you a narrow, possible short sighted focus.

    August 14, 2013 Reply


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