If asked to define how your business is different from every other business in your field, how would you respond? If your customers were asked the same question, how would they respond? More importantly, how would your potential customers respond? If you or they can’t clearly articulate a difference that matters to them, then it’s probably time to reposition yourself.

Cirque du Soleil has grown rapidly because they positioned themselves as a circus for adults with a theme and no animals. Curves has grown rapidly because they positioned themselves as a different kind of “athletic club”—a small facility for women only, with one circuit in a circle. The Nintendo Wii has grown rapidly because Nintendo positioned it as the low cost alternative to the PlayStation3 and Xbox—but more importantly, they positioned it for non-gamers, which is why senior centers are now using the Nintendo Wii for activities like bowling.

Whenever a business experiences rapid growth it’s almost always because it’s been positioned to be different than its competition. On the other hand, most small businesses struggle because they have no discernable difference (which matters to their potential customers). To most consumers a Chinese restaurant is a Chinese restaurant, a remodeler is a remodeler, a realtor is a realtor, and a car repairer is a car repairer. In other words, most customers see the vast majority of businesses as mere commodities. And whenever a business is perceived to be a commodity, price is the only issue.

However, when a business positions itself to be different in a way that their target market perceives to be positive (Apple, OXO, BMW), then they’re not competing on price but on perceived value. And, more importantly, their customers are then moved to remark to their friends, “You’ve got to check this out!” (i.e. buzz happens). So, if you’d like to better position your business for growth, try these ideas.

1. Make an Attribution Chart. On the left hand side of a piece of paper, list the decisions potential customers might use to choose whether to buy from you or a competitor (ex. price). Then create a scale (ex. low to high). Next display your five major competitor’s positions on your chart. Finally, look for the open areas where no one’s positioned. That could be your path to rapid growth.

2. Ask the Value Question. What’s the perceived value of your position? Is this something your target market would perceive to be worth paying for–at a price that would make you happy?

3. Look for Dramatically Different. Being a little bit better or different isn’t enough. Consumers need to clearly know how you’re different (i.e. no one confuses Cirque du Soleil with Ringling Brothers).

If you want to get out of the commodity price-sensitive competitive environment, then make sure you’ve clearly identified a position for your business that is so dramatically different than your competitors that everyone knows it and can’t wait to tell someone about it. Then you’ll be on your way toward rapid growth.

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