12 Ways For Leaders To Stand Out From Their Competitors

Expert Panel® Forbes Councils Member

Before a business can be profitable, it has to stand out to consumers. Rising above the rest through competitive differentiation is an important way to get on the radar of target audiences, so business leaders must find ways to differentiate their company’s products or services from those of competitors.

At the same time, they also need to differentiate themselves as effective leaders, as their internal actions, behaviors and decisions can influence the overall customer experience and, thus, the bottom line. Here, 12 members of Forbes Coaches Council share ways for leaders to help both their businesses and their own leadership stand out from the competition.

Featured members share effective ways for leaders to stand out from their competitors
Forbes Coaches Council members share effective ways for leaders and their services to stand out from their competitors

1. Keep Long-Term Customers Happy

Quality matters. Here is a simple way to differentiate your company from competitors: Cut your customer acquisition costs by keeping your long-term customers happy. Don’t disappoint the people who have spent their hard-earned dollars to support your product year after year. – Mika Hunter, Female Defender

2. Offer Solutions, Not Products Or Services

Customers want solutions, not products or services. Designing the service process from “right to left” helps identify the outcomes the customer is seeking beyond the implementation or completion of the project. – Ben Levitan, Cedalion Partners

3. Speak Your Story And Explain Your ‘Why’

When leaders speak their stories and explain their “why,” they immediately differentiate themselves. In general, people learn and identify points of connection through stories. And because leaders essentially represent their brand, when they share their specific experiences and perspectives, they create a unique connection with their audience that sets them apart from others. – Lisa Marie Platske, Upside Thinking, Inc.

4. Interact With People Face To Face

Focus on preserving the human touch. There’s an undeniable power in meeting and interacting with someone face to face. Establishing eye contact alone is of critical importance, as it’s the primary foundation for building TRUST: Transparency, Relationships, Understanding, Serving people first, and Treating others with love and respect. Are you investing mostly in your people or your processes? – Farshad Asl, Top Leaders, Inc.

5. Be Accessible And Follow Through

Differentiation happens through accessibility. Being accessible to your clients and flexible with them will lead to a better client experience. It’s important that this accessibility also leads to good follow-through. Nothing is worse than overpromising and underdelivering. Be accessible and follow through, and you’ll set yourself apart. – Jon Dwoskin, The Jon Dwoskin Experience

6. Act As A Mentor Instead Of A Boss

In professional services, servant leaders really stand out. They act as coaches and mentors rather than power-hungry bosses. They give credit rather than taking it. They problem-solve when things go wrong rather than blame. They are careful and nuanced in their speech rather than belligerent and headstrong. They attract people rather than drive them away. The difference is very noticeable. – Randy Shattuck, The Shattuck Group

7. Be True To Yourself And Your Values

Leaders can differentiate themselves or their services from competitors by being authentic. This means being true to yourself and your values, and not trying to be someone you’re not. When you’re authentic, people can trust you and feel confident in your ability to lead them. Being genuine also allows you to build strong relationships with others, which is essential for effective leadership. – Peter Boolkah, The Transition Guy

8. Define Your Blue Ocean

Identify what makes you unique and highlight the expertise, knowledge, skills and experiences that you bring to your work. Instead of trying to market to the masses, be strategic with your social platforms, presence and work. Build trusting relationships with clients and consistently deliver—their voice matters. Appreciate the competition and learn from each other. – Susan Murray, Clearpath Leadership

9. Write And Speak About Your Passions

Author some outstanding content. A most powerful way to bring out your voice is to write, publish and speak about what you are passionate about as a leader. Far too many companies muzzle their leaders and delegate this task to the “PR team” or to “marketing,” but what your audience may want to hear comes from you as a thought leader and leader in general. Don’t miss this opportunity. – John M. O’Connor, Career Pro Inc.

10. Stop Trying To Be ‘Interesting’ And Start Being Curious

The primary purpose of the brain is to keep you alive. It’s a selfish, self-centered piece of machinery. The brain creates biases, which are cognitive shortcuts that the brain uses to achieve the same result with less energy. It’s lazy! So be different. Be selfless. Stop trying to be “interesting” and start being curious. Lead by being “interested” in those with whom you communicate. – Alex Draper, DX Learning Solutions

11. Know What You Want To Be Known For

Leaders need to have a clear vision of what they want to be known for. This requires you, the leader, to think through where your passions and strengths lie; this may require outside feedback. I like to ask leaders, “If you asked your team to describe you in three words, what would they be?” Then, I recommend that they ask them. When you are clear, it shows up daily. – April Sabral, April Sabral Leadership

12. Operate With Integrity And A Set Of Core Values

Operating with integrity and a set of core values can largely separate you from the competition. Sadly, so few companies just don’t do what they say they’re going to do. Follow up in a timely manner, communicate with customers/prospects how they prefer to be communicated with (text, phone, email, social media, and so on) and provide a great experience. – Marc Zalmanoff, Marc Zalmanoff LLC