In both art and business, the importance of being different cannot be overlooked. In artrepreneurship, we call what makes our creative business unique, our differentiator. Understanding what your differentiator is affects how you market yourself, how you run your art-based business, and ultimately, the success you’ll find within your market. There are a few ways you can differentiate your creative business:
Differentiation in your product or service
This kind of differentiator is focused on the actual product or service you’re offering. In this case, your offering is so different that no other company is providing what you provide. Customers can’t get what you’re selling anywhere else. This means that if customers want what you’re offering, they must come to YOU.
For example: The Game Crafter is a super popular creative business that allows people to design and print their own high-quality board games. When the company entered the market, they had no real competitors. Now their trade-secret software and process allows them to maintain their competitive advantage by making it tough for other companies to duplicate their service offering.
Differentiation in the way you deliver your product or service
Maybe you provide a fairly common product or service, but the way you deliver your value is totally unique. This can become an important differentiator for your creative business. Delivery can include how customers order, receive, or even use your product.
For example: Before Netflix become the streaming giant that it is today, it was mailing DVDs to customers. The movies they sent were not unique, but the way those movies were delivered to customers was. People loved being able to order online and pick up their DVDs at their mailbox. During this time, Netflix found a way to differentiate themselves through their delivery.
Differentiation in your brand
Finding a differentiator within your brand is all about sharing your value in a way that stands out from your competitors. You might find that in your market, many business sell their products in the same way. Brainstorm ways to brand your creative business in a way that’s unique, eye-catching, and relatable to your target customers.
For example: Betsey Johnson is a fashion designer and fashion brand that has been wildly successful in the fashion world. Betsey Johnson sells clothing and accessories like many of it’s competitors. But Betsey Johnson has a very unique brand that is known for its bright patterns, whimsical joy, and female empowerment. In the world of high-fashion, Betsey Johnson was able to stand out by being different.
How do you know if something is truly a differentiator?
Competitor analysis, aka research! You must know what’s happening around the market to understand if what you’re offering is unique or not. Start with Google. Find out who your competitors are and what they’re offering. Do not offer the same thing as those who are successful. Offer something different, or offer it in a different way.
Remember: You must be honest with yourself.
One of the most important things to keep in mind when looking at your own differentiation is honesty. It’s really easy to think that we’re providing something super unique because of a small detail that might not really matter much to customers. Try to view your creative business from an outside perspective so that you can truly understand whether or not you have achieved the differentiation you’re looking for.
IMPORTANT NOTE: When thinking about differentiation, it’s important to consider how duplicatable your differentiation is. When another artrepreneur sees your creative business, how easy will it be for them to copy your strategy? The goal in any creative business is to gain a sustainable competitive advantage. A competitive advantage is only sustainable if it’s hard or near impossible for others to mimic.
Thinking about differentiation can be a long-term process. One of my favorite quotes reads: “Direction is more important than speed.” If you can build a creative business that has differentiation in one or all of these categories, you will be one (huge) step closer to becoming a successful artrepreneur.
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