Catsup Versus Ketchup – How to Stand Out from Your Competition

Competition_GP Catsup Versus Ketchup – How to Stand Out from Your Competition I recently saw a story that Heinz was considering a pitch that the fictional “Mad Men” character Don Draper pitched on the television show. His pitch was about what’s missing? What’s missing from plain fries, from a condiment-free burger, or steak? “Pass the Heinz,” the pitch stated.

Then I watched the competitor’s pitch, done by Don’s protégé Peggy, during the same episode. Her pitch began with, “What’s the difference between ketchup and catsup? Your competitors are saying there’s nothing; but, we know that’s not true.”

When it comes to your firm, the general public may not know the difference between one accounting firm to another. But we know that’s not true.

How do you make your firm stand out from the competition?

Begin by ditching the idea of “that’s how it’s always been done.” Branding is more than pretty images and a cool logo or website. It’s a strategic, layered approach that is tested against what your customer needs versus what you need from your customers. Here’s how:

  1. Know your brand and its internal beliefs and communications. What does it look like, sound like, and feel like?
  2. Know your audience, right down to favorite hobbies.
  3. Know more about your competitors than you probably care to so you can differentiate yourself from them.

Create a strategy that uses traditional and inbound marketing efforts that focus on one thing – your brand and what makes you stand apart from the competition.

Traditional efforts may be a combination of print, events, conferences, etc. While inbound efforts use the power of the web to draw in people who are interested in what you’re offering, including blogs with a call to action; downloadable content that meets the customer’s need; and online events like webinars to present best practices, tips, and a hook that draws the attendee toward your brand’s light.


Your accounting firm specializes in a variety of services, but you want to stand out from your competition by focusing on one niche area, like the automotive industry. Here’s how you would approach it.

  1. Define your brand. What it stands for. What makes it special. “Our firm builds muscle – accounting muscle – for the automotive industry.”
  2. Research your target audience. Know the age of the business owner you want to focus on. Define the words those people use, catch phrases, industry knowledge, hobbies, and online preferences. There are dozens of automotive quotes you could leverage in print and marketing materials, such as “It’s like flying jet fighters in a gymnasium.” – Dick Trickle. Make comparisons between their industry and yours, for example, taxes are like the steering column, while regulations are like the chassis. Create many moments like this and build upon them throughout the campaign.
  3. Stalk your competition. Follow them on social media. Sign up for their emails. Attend their events. Know what they are doing so you can create opportunities for your company that fills the gaps.
  4. Finally, create a plan that spans several months to help you saturate the market with your message. Include print media, advertisements—both online and offline, host webinars to draw in leaders in those industries, and share stories that relate to them. Become one of them.

This quote from HubSpot shares what it’s like to be a brand leader, “Brands, just like people, learn and can recover when they fall down.” They are fearless, brave, and brilliant. 

What it boils down to is who do you want to be, the catsup or the ketchup?

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Disclaimer: This post originally appeared in the CPA Client Bulletin Resource Guide, © 2017, AICPA. Reprinted by permission.