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Earlier today, I was reading through one of the latest HARO emails. If you don’t already know of HARO (Help a Report Out), it’s a great resource for both reporters looking for qualified sources on the fly, and for businesses looking for big media opportunities. I’ve subscribed to their updates, so I regularly receive HARO email messages several times a day. I quickly scan the emails for anything that applies to my startup, Promoboxx. Sometimes, I find a golden opportunity, sometimes I don’t, but this particular time I found the email’s opening paragraph to be particularly inspiring. It reads:

The holidays are a trick-or-treat time for your online sales. The treat: more customers. The trick: stand out from your competition…

That statement really resonates with me, as I’m sure it would with the majority of our Promoboxx community, which is primarily made up of US retailers. The thought is timely and relevant to our business and to the businesses that use our home-grown platform. We’re all looking for ways to stand out from our competition. (Side note to startups: For a fantastic write up on why startups need not be shy about naming their competition, check out this post by our friend Sravish Sridhar, CEO of Kinvey, a fellow TechStars company.)

I began to think, how does Promoboxx, a promotional marketing platform for brands and retailers, help its customers stand out from their competitors? After a quick brainstorm, here are four ways we do just that:

#1: Promote your most exclusive product lines.

Is there a certain type of product line or collection that only you carry in your locale? Then get the word out! Be sure to promote the exclusives on each of your marketing channels. Let your customers know that if they want that certain awesome and elusive something, they’ll have to visit your store to get it.

Quick Example: When the Target Missoni frenzy left crazed shoppers upset over product shortages, a showroom in the DFW Texas area saw a unique opportunity: to promote their own line of Missoni floor coverings, which look pretty much exactly like the clothing. They let everyone know that even if Target was experiencing a major shortage on the “must have” designs, Fine Floors by Dalworth had a plethora to offer in Missoni floor coverings. Their natural promotion inclination resulted in a spike in store awareness, Facebook Fans, and showroom foot traffic. It helps that they’re the only ones around town with that product.

So, if you’re used to resorting to price-slashing as your only recourse with competitors over shared brands, go for promoting the lines that only you carry.

#2: Promote your product diversity.

If I were to walk through your store, would each section or aisle look the same to me? Hopefully, not. Just like your store is diverse in appearance and in offerings, your promotions should be too. So, don’t be so promo-vanilla. Instead of continuously offering the same discount over and over again, switch it up! Try a sweeps on a totally different product, or a sign-up form to gauge interest on a new product arrival. Diversify your promotion offerings. It keeps things fresh.

Quick Example: Vertx, a tactical apparel brand, runs promotions monthly, including sweeps, coupons, sweeps + coupons, product giveaways, and sign up forms. Each month it’s different. By utilizing creative and varied promotions, Vertx grew its fan base from 0 to 30K in a few months. Not too shabby.

#3: Promote the planet.

What I mean is, out-green your competition. We know that being green is trendy, and you can use that to your advantage. Consider promoting energy conservation to win over customers. Offer online entry forms so they can subscribe to your newsletter on the web, as opposed to a physical mailer, and position it as such. It’s something easy that you can implement today. Want to sweeten the deal? How about if every time a customer signs up to receive email communications over print communications, you can choose to use Promoboxx to provide a coupon code off their next purchase.

#4: Promote your people.

Many of us can’t compete on price value. There’s always another guy willing to sell the same widget for less that we ever could. If you can’t compete on price (or don’t want to), promote your key stand-out team members and compete on service. To prove your service-based value, use a simple Promoboxx sign up promotion to gather and amass team and/or service reviews from your customers. And since Facebook is removing its Reviews tab from all Facebook Business Pages (effective October 31, 2011), use our tool to continue to gather valuable reviews that you can then share and post anywhere on the web. Your superior service value will always give you a leg up on the competition.

So if your lacking differentiation, it happens. Just try one of these tactics. See if it helps and then report back! We’d love to know.