Shep Hyken\'s Customer Service Blog

Another Competitive Advantage: Uniqueness

Chicago Hot DogBusiness Strategy

Not all hotdogs are the same.

I love a good hotdog. Since I was a little boy, I can remember my parents taking me to the ball game and having a delicious hot dog.

I also remember some family barbecues where we had those fancy big thick kosher hot dogs. It took a while, but I eventually developed a taste for the fancier hot dogs.

Well recently I took a liking to a Chicago style hot dog. These dogs are different. It’s not a true Chicago hot dog unless it includes very specific ingredients. You start with a Vienna all-beef hot dog that is boiled, not grilled and placed into a soft poppy seed hot dog bun. Then you add the ingredients, in this specific order. Yellow mustard, sweet green pickle relish, onion, tomato wedges, pickle spear, sport peppers and celery salt. The pickle spear is laid on top of all of this. And, forget about ketchup! That is considered Chicago style hot dog blasphemy.

So, why am I sharing all of this information about Chicago style hot dogs? Because this dog is a metaphor for a competitive business success strategy, which is uniqueness.

You can buy a hot dog in many places around the world, but not all of them serve up the Chicago style hot dog. The street vendor in New York isn’t serving a Chicago style dog. Sure, there are places in cities outside of Chicago that will serve the authentic Chicago style dog. And, if that particular dog is what you really want, and you don’t live in Chicago where this style of hot dog is the norm, you may drive a little further and spend a little more money to get it. That’s what uniqueness does.

So if a hot dog is a metaphor for business, what makes your dog different? This is your competitive differentiator. For example, there are lots of car dealers that sell the same make and model of the car you own. What one thing, perhaps unique compared to the other dealerships, did your dealership do to make you buy the car from them? It can be price, location, customer service, speed and any other feature or benefit that separates them from the other dealerships.

The big uniqueness question is, “Why should a customer buy from you over your competition?” It is tied to what you do that is different. Give me one reason – or several. Is it quality, speed, price, customer service or any other feature that makes you unique in your market place? The answer is what gives you a competitive advantage worth exploiting.

Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker and New York Times bestselling business author. For information contact or For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs go to Follow on Twitter: @Hyken

(Copyright © MMXVI, Shep Hyken)



  1. Shep, your story reminds me of how Walt Disney was trying to figure out how to draw people down Main Street in Disneyland. He decided that the Sleeping Beauty Castle would be his big “wienie”. It is unique, it can be seen from every area of the park, and draws Guests further down Main Street USA.
    The term stuck and every park has a “wienie”–Cinderella Castle, the Tree of Life, Spaceship Earth, Mann’s Theater, etc.– and the Imagineers use the term for any eye-catching unique building or attraction. Unique is definitely the way to go!

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