Differentiation is important to the success of any brand. In the crowded landscape of business, attracting the right customers is essential to your bottom line. When you are considering investing in a franchise model, consider how well that brand distinguishes itself from other concepts in the same space.

Ask yourself: Does this brand solve a problem its customers have in an innovative way? What value-adding unique features and benefits does the brand offer over its competitors? If you can’t readily answer either of these questions, most likely potential customers can’t either, and they move on to a brand that can.

There are many ways a brand can differentiate itself. Keeping a narrow target market can provide more individualized focus on the needs of a specific customer niche. You can’t be everything to everybody, so brands that don’t try to be can offer a solution to a specific problem that will resonate with a target market.

Creating and delivering on the expectation of superior customer service is another way a brand can add value. Convenience and ease of doing business also makes a brand stand out, as does having a unique business model.

The saturated quick serve restaurant space offers some examples of brand differentiation. Sonic’s unconventional “drive-in” model creates a unique dining experience for customers. Jimmy John’s “freaky fast” promise of quick turn-around is often attractive to a short-on-time lunch crowd. Subway offers a “healthy” alternative to fast food. These brands have found success because they added value in a way that is different from the competition.

Chick-fil-A stands out among chicken restaurants because of its mission to create a memorable customer experience. The brand spends tremendous amounts of resources creating new and innovative ways to do so. Its dedication to exceptional customer service is a brand differentiator that has attracted an extremely loyal client base.

Sport Clips Haircuts is a prime example of a brand that combines a variety of differentiators to set it apart in its industry. Focusing on an underserved niche market, the sports concept and theme of “It's good to be a guy” solves a problem for the overlooked male demographic who might not feel as comfortable going to unisex salons. The on-line check in system makes it easy to do business as a client. While the MVP championship experience brings additional value by setting a standard of excellent customer service, creating loyal clients generating recurring revenue. By distinguishing its concept and services from the rest, Sport Clips has captured a significant market share within its industry.

As a potential franchisee, another area to look at is what the brand does to differentiate itself in their recruiting strategies. Recruiting and retaining quality employees is essential, especially in a service industry. Sport Clips, for example, strives to be the preferred place of employment for the stylist community. Adapting ergonomic flooring and European shampoo bowls, which are better on stylists’ backs were all done to improve working conditions. The brand also invests in robust training to develop and encourage professional growth. Creating a defined career path and providing financial stability attracts top talent. Is the brand you are considering dedicating resources towards recruitment and retention?

Differentiation is a big component in brand strength. When considering investing in a brand, examine closely how the brand positions itself in the marketplace. Besides brand recognition, this characteristic will affect how you operate and market your business. Before you invest in a franchise, ask yourself: How has this brand differentiated itself in its industry, and has it done so effectively?

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