Just because you love your business doesn’t mean it’s always easy to sell your company’s story to the world. These days, it seems we face an ever-increasing stream of advertisements—in our social feeds, in our inboxes, and across our favorite websites, making it difficult for any one company or product to stand out from the crowd.

So, how do you do it? It starts with your brand. Having a strongly defined brand is critical to the success of your business. Your brand is your story–it’s WHO you are and WHY you’re doing what you do. If you’re not clear on your purpose, no one else will be either. Find the one thing that makes you unique. Do you place extraordinary importance on the quality of your product? Do you excel at customer service? What can you offer that your competitors can’t?

The answer isn’t always easy. Here are 5 steps you need to make your business stand out from the competition:


Step 1: Define your passion. Why did you start your business? Do you thrive off of challenges, or the rush you get when you start something new? Do you love spicy foods but discovered a gap in the market for authentic, reasonably priced spices? Or are you an avid runner always on the hunt for the perfect shoe, only to realize that the best way to find it was to make it yourself—and that sharing your find with the world gives you ultimate satisfaction? Understanding your passion is the first step in setting yourself apart from your competition.


Step 2: Find your ONE thing. What’s your key differentiator? Does your product offer an extraordinary feature that the competition doesn’t? Or do you want to be known for outstanding customer service? Or perhaps your products serve a niche corner of a larger market—a spices retailer who specializes in the hottest spices in the world, for example. Or a baby food maker who only uses organic, locally grown ingredients. Your ONE thing is something you do better than everyone else. Make sure your promise is authentic so your brand truly resonates with your audience.


Step 3: Define your audience. Now that you know your brand, your story, and your one thing, it’s time to make sure that message reaches the right audience. Sure, you could start creating mass amounts of content, posting feverishly on social media, and hoping something sticks. But more often than not, those untargeted efforts are ineffective. In order to for any piece of content or marketing effort to be successful, it has to be personalized and speak to a specific person, with a specific need, at a specific point of his buying process.Start by gathering some basic information, you could use a CRM system or interview existing customers. Interview existing customers, talk to your colleagues—identify your customers’ pain points and characteristics, ensuring that your focus remains on the people.


Step 4: Develop a unique value proposition. You know what makes you unique. You know your audience. But why should your audience care? Standing out for the sake of standing out isn’t enough. Your customers are asking, “What’s in it for me?” It’s your job to make it crystal clear. A strong value proposition establishes the foundation on which your company’s marketing and sales activities can be built. For example, Apple, well known for their innovation and creativity, have a value proposition for iTunes that is succinct and clearly expresses the products’ competitive advantage:

iTunes. Home to everything that entertains you. iTunes is the best way to organize and enjoy the music, movies, and TV shows you already have — and shop for the ones you want to get. You can even listen to free streaming radio stations with iTunes Radio. iTunes works on Mac, PC, iPad, iPhone, iPod touch, and Apple TV.


Step 5: Get the word out. You’ve identified your passion and the one thing that makes you unique. You know who your audience is and why they should care about you. Now, it’s time to tell your story and make your voice heard. Create content, such as blog posts and videos, targeted to your audience. Be creative and relatable. Connect with your audience by making them feel like they are a part of your story. If you’re not already, get social. Set up Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ accounts for your business and post regularly. Create a blog and generate some good SEO traction. Share your story, your customer’s stories, and industry best practices. Remember, what sets you apart isn’t WHAT you do, but WHY you do it.

Developing an engaging, consistent brand presence takes time. Start small if you need to. Sit back and think about what it is you truly love and why you do what you do. The rest will fall into place from there.

What tips have you found useful in helping you stand out from the competition?