How to create a point of difference that customers care about – Part 2

Bernadette Schwerdt

Last month we looked at some examples of businesses that, like most start-ups, couldn’t afford to cut process to find a toe-hold in the market who went on to achieve great success, nonetheless, through tweaking traditional business models in their industries tom offer a real point of difference to potential customers.

Here are more businesses that have thrived by bucking the trend.

Make it easy: Wholesome Hub

It’s not what Wholesome Hub stocks that makes them different. Loads of websites sell organic/vegan/healthy food. What’s unique about Wholesome Hub is that their website search functionality is built using a “values-based” approach. In other words, each product on the site has been “tagged” according to a range of different “values” so if you’re looking for something specific that meets your values, you can find it easily and quickly.  Paleo, nut-free, paraben-free, Kosher, Fair Trade, gluten free, GMO – whatever your values, you can find a product that reflects them on this site.

Is this search functionality a world-shattering point of difference? Not really. Amazon and others stock similar products and those products can be found if you take the time to look. But in a world where speed and ease are paramount, Wholesome Hub‘s search function has proven sufficiently helpful to make customers become loyal fans and has seen the start-up grow year on year to become a dominant player in the health-food sector.

Make it a subscription: Dollar Shave Club

The Dollar Shave Club is a subscription based service that sells disposable razors.

You pay a fraction of the retail price, the razors get delivered to your door and the service continues month by month until you opt out. Their point of difference was two-fold.

Their narrow focus – one product (razor blades), one audience (men who shave) – enabled them to create a quirky You Tube video that went viral, and the use of technology to create a  subscription-based service provided the point of difference that customers found helpful and easy.  This narrow focus paid off handsomely.  After just five years in business Unilever allegedly paid $1 billion for the Dollar Shave Club. For a start-up that launched using a $4500 video, that’s a pretty impressive result.

Make a difference: Thankyou

When Daniel and Justine Flynn launched Thankyou, a social enterprise, they didn’t waste time trying to create make a better, tastier or cheaper bottle of water. They just did one thing differently: they offered customers the chance to feel good about buying water, and specifically, feel good about choosing their brand of bottled water.

How did they do it? They did it by using sophisticated technology that added a unique code to each bottle so buyers could go online and see what humanitarian project their specific bottle of water helped.  They knew that if people had to choose between buying water that benefitted a multinational like Mt Franklin or a social enterprise that helped others, they hoped people might choose the latter. And they did. A costly endeavour? Absolutely. But it paid off. Thankyou has since expanded into food, baby products and body care, and are now launching in New Zealand.

As you can see, technology is creating unexpected opportunities at an unfathomable pace.  The downside? You have to pedal really fast just to stay relevant. The upside? Anyone with an internet connection can succeed. So, if you want to increase your chances of building an online business, don’t try to invent something from scratch. Just take an existing “bit” of a business model, have a narrow focus and use technology to create a meaningful point of difference.

Bernadette Schwerdt, Founder, Australian School of Copywriting and author of “How to Build an Online Business”