What’s unique about your business isn’t your opening hours, your service offering or your location. In fact, what you think is unique is usually quite common. But it doesn’t take me long to dig down to find what is truly unique about a business. And it’s almost always the most boring, unexpected and under-rated thing that the business does.

Everything that is not unique about your business

The most common response we get from businesses who are trying to tell us what’s different about them, is, good customer service. Which means that it’s nothing different or unique at all. It’s surprising just how many businesses honestly believe that they provide good customer service and nobody else does. Yet, when I’ve sent a mystery shopper or mystery client to their business to test that out so I can research what their business is really all about, almost every business that listed good customer service as something unique about them, failed at the basics of customer service. The power to delude ourselves is strong in business. But that’s not the point here. Features are not what makes a product or service unique. Open 7 days, good customer service, friendly service, locally-owned, 50 years of service, the “best” in town or convenient location are not what make you unique. They are just smart things to be. And almost all your competitors are going to match you at least in 80% of those things. It’s in that 20% of differences that we find the stuff of value. And at least half of your competitors will contain stuff from that 20% of differences in features. And unless you’re the only game in town, the 5-10% of remaining difference in features or products you and your competitors sell is still not enough to mark you as unique. Almost everything you think is special or unique about your business isn’t anywhere near unique.

The power of unexpected delight.

What is it that is unique about these businesses? If it’s not the features, the products or opening hours, what is it? One example I’ll use is of a business consultant in Darwin that I work with closely. This consultant has a list of things they do. They have a list of programs that they deliver. They have a nice office in a convenient location and staff that are quite lovely to deal with. They help a tonne of people every week to do better business. But none of that is what is unique about them. In fact, it’s what a business consultant does. What is unique about them, is the stuff that isn’t obvious. Unlike other business consultants, they are highly collaborative with competitors. Instead of pitching hard for you to work only with them, they will openly talk to you about their competitors and even give you the contact details of them. They actively give you every alternative that they can find to let you make a decision to not work with them. And they don’t only give you the name of the competing business, they will give you the name of who to talk to there, the phone number to contact them on, and even will call ahead to that competitor to let them know that you’ll be in touch. Now THAT is unique. Another example is the plumber who offers to service charities and community groups for free in his downtime. He doesn’t advertise that fact, but when he gets an enquiry from one, he makes the offer. And it’s that unique factor that makes him the preferred plumber of every member of that football club, or craft group, or dance crew. Or how about the café that gives you little samples of their baked goods when they recognise that you’ve been there a couple of times – or better still – happens to remember your coffee order from last time. What you’ll notice, is that what is unique about these businesses isn’t their advertised or listed features or products. It’s the unexpected and delightful experiences that they provide. The unexpected and delightful help for a community group. The unexpected and delightful mini muffin you didn’t order with your coffee. The unexpected and delightful experience of having your coffee order remembered.

Are you ready to apply unexpected delight to your business in person and online?

What makes your business unique isn’t like running off a list of what you sell like you hear on radio ads in regional areas. It’s about doing something utterly unrelated to the features or your business that isn’t expected. Helping to carry the customer’s bags out to their car when it’s not really your job. Throwing in a little note to thank them for choosing you to service their car. Sending them a quick text message a week after their electrical work to check that everything is ok. These aren’t products, features or something as inane as your opening hours. It’s what you do that provides an unexpected delight for your customer. Now, what can you do to provide that same level of delight on your digital platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn and your website?