By Simon Davies

It’s a saturated business market out there, so if you’re launching a company and looking to succeed, it’s vital that you stand out from the crowd. That means nailing your business’s unique selling point, or USP.

Differentiating your business from the competition can be the difference between failure and success. Unless you’re offering something unique, your business is just another case of ‘been there, done that.’

Here are three simple tips to help you launch a company that’s wholly unique.

1. Sell something that’s one-of-a-kind

In business, it’s important to keep a keen eye on the competition. It’s all well and good having a brilliant product, but if someone else is already marketing that same product, and especially if they already have control of the market, you’ll be running against the wind from the word go.

The first step, then, is conducting product research. Patent searches can give you a clear and accurate insight into the intellectual property landscape around your area of your business. By finding and examining other patents in and around your niche, you can discover where there is ‘white space’. Sometimes called ‘available space’, this is the gap in the market for patented inventions.

A patent protects valuable intellectual property. It prevents others from being able to replicate your product design and profit from your hard work. If you fail to patent an invention, you might find that another company, with greater resources and more capital, improves your design and knocks you out of the market.

You’ll also need to make sure your product isn’t infringing on someone else’s patent by conducting a preliminary patent search. You can do this yourself, trawling internet directories like IP Watchdog or even Google, but remember most patents are specific to the country in which they are registered. If you plan to expand globally, you’ll require an international patent search, which requires the resources and language skills of professional translation agencies, like Global Voices, who analyse data from worldwide patent databases. This helps determine your product’s patentability and, indeed, whether you can legally pursue production and distribution (patent infringements can raze a business to the ground).

Whether you use a patent search for your own product, or as a way to search for gaps in the market, they can help make sure your company offers a product that is unique.

2. Find your audience niche

The challenge for any business is to clearly identify what you do and make it visible to your target market. But there’s no one size fits all—by narrowing your target market, you can focus your skills or services to uniquely benefit that customer. Afterall, potential customers are more likely to respond to a marketing message that they feel appeals to them directly.

Generational marketing, a way of defining consumers by age as well as social, economic, demographic and psychological factors, is used to help product developers and marketers build an accurate picture of their target consumer. Think about how old they are, where they live, what careers they have and how much they earn.

You might also consider what other aspects of their lives matter—if you’re selling a wipe clean wallpaper product, for example, your ideal customer is likely a homeowner with small children or pets. This helps you focus your marketing strategy to more directly appeal to an audience that’s more likely to convert. It’s called targeted advertising: “entrepreneurs who aim at a small target are far more likely to make a direct hit.”

While you’re setting and shoring up your customer base, remember to make it easy for those customers to do business with you. Be transparent about what you do and why, and focus on superior customer service. From first proposal through to delivery, it’s vital you make it clear that  your purpose is to understand and serve the exact needs of your customers.

3. Brand yourself specifically, but differently

Once you’ve secured a unique product or service and focused your marketing strategy, it’s vital you use these factors to inform and brand yourself accordingly. The power of your brand relies on your ability to craft a marketing message that actually speaks to the people who will buy your product or services.

Of course, the best brand differs from product to product and audience to audience. But three things constitute best branding practice across the board: keep it simple; keep it flexible and keep it true to you. If you’re looking to take it one step further and launch a company that is unique, you’ll also need to do something just a little bit different.

Part of branding yourself differently means doing something special to stand out from the crowd. That doesn’t mean making a substantial change to your business practice, but making efforts to extend your business’s scope beyond simply making profit. It’s popular at the moment for brands to prove they are being socially and/or environmentally responsible.

That goes for consumables manufacturers like Velvet Tissue, who have committed to plant three new trees for every one they use in the production of toilet tissue, and removals companies, like AnyVan who operate a side project that supports members of the local community. AnyVan’s “Magic Van” has helped out charities such as Shelter, The British Heart Foundation and UAREUK in transporting warm clothing and foodstuffs to those in need.

Such initiatives are important for your brand because they’re important for your business. According to a 2013 survey, a quarter of UK consumers said they would take the green, or fair trade option, even if it cost more. Businesses that make efforts to be more sustainable have a better chance of securing a large and loyal customer base.

Don’t underestimate how these three simple tips, and trying something a little bit different, can help your business avoid becoming just another case of been there, done that.

Simon Davies is a freelance journalist interested in marketing, tech and small business. Follow him at @SimonTheoDavies.