How to create a point of difference that customers care about – Part 1

Bernadette Schwerdt

Despite popular belief, you don’t need to invent something new or spectacular to create a successful start-up. In a world where everyone is attracted to the “shiny and new”, there’s a fortune to be had in building upon what already exists, having an extremely narrow focus and using readily-available technology to deliver a newer, improved version.

Combined, these three factors enable small, unknown start-ups to offer a meaningful point of difference (and avoid that dreaded price war that only the powerful with deep pockets can win).

Here are some impressive examples of how start-ups have used these three principles to tweak existing business models and create multi-million dollar businesses.

Make it quick: Menulog

Menulog is a popular online ordering app. You order food online and it gets delivered to you. Nothing new or different there. But what’s new and different is how the order is taken. In the past, you’d order directly from the restaurant’s website (if they had one) but with Menulog, you order via their customised app, and then you get your meal delivered.  What’s different is the extra digital layer – the interface – provided by Menulog, which facilitates the order.

That little interface makes a big difference to all stakeholders. The customer gets instant access to hundreds of restaurants, gets their meals delivered for a very small fee and only need to enter their address and credit card details once. The restaurant also wins as they get access to thousands of new customers at very little cost.

This interface enabled Menulog to scale at virtually zero marginal cost and to become the dominant platform in the space, and demonstrates how the clever application of technology and a narrow focus can be used to create a point of difference.  Did it pay off?  Menulog was sold to UK-based Just Eats in May 2015 for $855 million so you could say that ‘little’ interface generated a very big return.

Make it cheap:, the low-cost creative services platform, is another great example of how technology can be used to create a meaningful point of difference. Their premise is that that you can get anything you like from the site and it will cost just $5. A logo, a piece of code, a song sung, a cartoon drawn – everything’s just $5.

The key point is this. didn’t create a new product or service. Upwork, Freelancer and 99Designs had all gone before, but identified one little aspect of those competitive sites (the pricing) and gave that lever a twist. That $5 fixed-price-point  generated an enormous media storm and the site subsequently went viral.’s offering has since evolved and it now offers higher-priced services for those who want a premium experience, but the $5 price point created initial cut-through, awareness and that all-important customer trial.

Next month we’ll look at more examples of start-ups who have gone on to great success by finding a genuine point of difference in their offering.

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