A common piece advice in retail: “Differentiate yourself. Then let the market know how you’re different.”
That’s good advice, but here’s more: It’s easy to be different. It’s much harder to be distinctive.
“Distinctive” means you’re different in a way that gets positive attention.
Remember: it’s useless for a retailer to be different in a way that no one can notice.
It’s worse to be different in a way that people notice but don’t like (“Hey, we’re the only bookstore in town that plays really loud music.” Or “We’re the only cafe in town where all our staff smell bad.”)
But it’s great to be different in a way that people notice and like (“Hey, we’re the only bookstore in town that has an extensive collection of Spanish-language books and international newspapers” or “We’re the only cafe in town where all our coffees are fair-trade and all our meat and dairy products are free-range.”)
That’s distinctive. And if you do a good job of getting your distinctives noticed, you’ll soon enough be distinguished — that is: well-known, well-respected, and sustainably profitable.