"None can duplicate my brush strokes, none can duplicate my chisel marks, none can duplicate my handwriting... Henceforth, I will capitalize on this difference for it is an asset to be promoted to the fullest."
In Og Mandino's classic "The Greatest Salesman in the World," one of the ten scrolls (Scroll IV) devotes its theme to capitalizing on the unique angle that only you can bring to your professional field.
Far from just a pat on the back about being unique, it points to a universal truth about how capitalizing on your differences in the marketplace, rather than your similarities, will not only give you the competitive advantage but by its very nature bring out your best.
In the same spirit as the great Og Mandino, here are 3 reasons to use being different to your competitive advantage, rather than to spend your energy trying to better fit in.
1) Price is the last differential of the similar. The different can stand alone, and can base their price on value.
If you compete by being similar, your only differential will almost always end up being price. If you want to go that road, know that you will only win if your product or service is the lowest price, and this devalues not only your now smothered uniqueness, but your bottom line. If you are different, and in an authentic, meaningful way, you will be able to base your price off of the unique value you give, and since this difference is unique to you, it will be much harder to copy or undercut for your competitors.
2) If you're not providing a unique product or service, or a unique angle on a product or service, than it's likely you're not solving anyone's problems.
In order to have a competitive advantage implies there's a market in the first place. If that market is not already being served than you are unique by definition, but if there are already others serving that market, and providing for and solving those customer's needs and problems, than you must find out how you personally can do it differently, and of course better. Otherwise there's no reason for your presence there, unless you want to compete on price like the first example.
3) The leader is always different, first. If you are truly different you are always in first place in your niche.
Sure it is helpful at times to see what else is going on in your field, but only to see how it can help enrich your own vision, not to abandon your differences and follow someone else's path. The leader in any field is the one with the competitive advantage. Being similar and first are incompatible. Others may copy you, but that is a good problem to have, because if it's an authentic difference you will remain an original in spite of others flattering attempts to imitate you.