Being Different is Your Competitive Advantage

different[1]In May of this year, included some of my thoughts about how to be unforgettable. Many believe that demonstrating and promoting how or why you are “the best” is the most effective strategy to take. In the marketing and ad driven world that we live in today, “the best” message simply does not resonate. To be effective you must identify and show how you are different and how you approach challenges differently than others. Different is better than best.

When teaching personal branding, I always focus on ways that people can show how they are different. Below I have listed some of the questions you need to ask yourself when developing you brand message and identifying your key differentiators.

Determining how we are different is something that many people struggle with. This is not a surprise; it is hard to look at ourselves and be honest and realistic. We want to be the best, we want to believe we are different, but it is a challenge to identify what makes us different from competitors or simply others who are vying for the attention of potential customers. However, determining your key differentiators will allow you to identify your competitive advantages and this is critical to career and business success.

What makes you different? What makes you remarkable? What makes you interesting? Why should anyone care about you and what you do? These are compelling and important questions to ask to start this process.

In a time when we have just a few seconds to make an impression, we need to think about the messages we are projecting and their value. Your message must show how you are different and you need to consistently project this message for it to resonate.

Now we get to the big question – What makes you different? Have you ever thought about this, have you ever written it down? Get a clean sheet of paper or a blank screen on your computer and get to work now. Start with these questions:

  • What makes you different? (skills, experience, passion, commitment or creativity)
  • How do you communicate differently? (This can be in writing, in person, on video or through social posts)
  • How do you listen differently? (Do you actually listen? Many people don’t)
  • How do you ask questions differently? (Do you even ask questions or know what questions to ask?)
  • How do you follow up differently than your competitors? (A majority of small businesspeople fail to even follow up once)
  • How do you build relationships differently?
  • How do you provide value differently? (How do you go beyond the services you offer or the products you sell? What is the added value you provide?)
  • How do you empower or inspire others differently?
  • How do you do what you do for a living differently than others? (Get specific, there may be a number of reasons)
  • How is your leadership style different and more effective?
  • How is your ability to achieve success for your clients or for your organization different?
  • How do you show you care differently than others?

You are different and you need to think about it and have a plan for using it.

From a practical standpoint here is what you can do to move this effort forward. I have presented before many networking and business groups. Although each group is different, they share a common goal. Networking groups focus on building relationships which will generate business. Elevator speeches or introductions are a primary way people describe themselves. Unfortunately, they are often boring; too sales focused and fail to highlight why a person is different. Take a step back and think about how you do what you do differently and clearly state it.

  • Some approaches that work well include:
  • Tell a success story with an example of a winning outcome
  • Talk about a challenge that you overcame or helped a client overcome
  • Tell a story about how you went the extra mile
  • Discuss what you are passionate about in terms of business and charity
  • Relate a personal or businesses strategy that worked
  • Talk about the added value you bring to relationships
  • Tell people how you are different than competitors
  • Talk about how you empower and help

Don’t make a sales pitch, this alone will make you stand out in many groups

Are you still stuck on how or where to start?  Try this – “Hello My name is… I’m a different kind of (fill in the blank).” This is basic but it is a good place to start.

When you have the opportunity, practice and see how this approach works. Compare responses to how your pervious introduction was received. See if people mention your approach and ask others what they think of it. Do more people come up to you after?  Your elevator speech and introductions do not have to be set in stone; change them until you find what works. Practice and ask for feedback. You will also need a few versions of your intro. Have a 10-second, 30-second and one-minute versions of your elevator speech in your arsenal and ready to go.

Home Work

Write down how you are different. Start by looking at this in a big picture way then narrow it down to specific business related actions and activities, personality traits and personal approaches to life and business. Remember to focus on you and who you are, these are personal branding questions, they are not about what you sell.

For a free key Grow Your Personal Brand Personal Differentiator Questionnaire, email

By Bill Corbett

Corbett Public Relations Long Island and the World 




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