There's a two-fold mission to this statement: one part applies to your startup's value proposition/unique selling proposition and the other pertains to the brand (how your startup makes people feel).
In short, you must know what is out there so you can create something that stands out. Let's break it down using the categories listed above.
Most startups will resort to "lowest price" on this point, but we can do better than that. Instead, ask yourself what are the alternatives to your product and what do they lack that your customers need? Sometimes it's as simple as a better interface or a different distribution method (i.e. Dollar Shave Club going subscription for razor blades). This should indicate what the big selling point of your product is or at least inform you of what is lacking within your competitors. From there, you can adjust your messaging to hit on the specific pain point your customers are looking to ease.
No two companies are alike in nature. Not even if they are in the same industry. Guaranteed, there are cultural nuances and quirks within every company that make them unique and special. Frankly, most of them hide it behind a professional demeanor and an unwillingness to be human. So, your goal is to assess your competitors personalities and find a void to fill. If the majority of them come off as stoic and cold, you have an opportunity to be friendly and vulnerable. Granted, you have to know yourself, since you can't put on a false identity in the hopes of attracting people.
These two bits of research can inform almost every decision your company should make in marketing itself. They give you the reason people should buy your product and why they won't forget you.
Startups frequently align with the idea that you need to be absolutely perfect before you launch your product/service. That's a surefire way to never make progress.
Part of me thinks it's because they want to be seen as the best and idealized, rather than being something good.
I'll be honest, I know my website could improve. I know I launch articles and newsletters with spelling errors. I know that I sometimes forget pieces of information that would have made a difference in a sales call. But we cannot go on expecting that everything has to be, or will be for that matter, perfect.
It's as if startups conflate being vulnerable and human with being undesirable. That fear of being undesirable is a dragon, snarling and biting, waiting to inevitably breakdown your door and consume you rotisserie style.
Screw that, take the offensive. Launch with imperfections, bumps, and blemishes to say, "we are not perfect, but we will continue to get better."
Slay the dragon.
In my newsletters, I do a segment every month called the Brand Spotlight. Within these emails, I go over a brands positioning, messaging, visuals, crafted experiences, and what could be improved. Today, I was able to speak with my good friend, Melinda Livsey, about a recommended brand for the spotlight: Thuma.
Thuma sells bed frames. Really nice, easy to assemble bed frames.
When Melinda and I were discussing the things that made the brand impactful to her, we centered their success on one thing: the intention and thought that was put into every aspect of their experience makes them worth a premium and telling others about. Thuma showed they cared through their website, their product design, their packaging, instructions, and delivering on their promise as an easy to assemble product.
Think about it, if you encounter an amazing experience, even if it's more costly, you will tell others about it. In turn, putting more resources into the experience your customers have makes it so you don't have to spend so much on advertising. You've already paid for it by creating something worth telling others about.
The headline (H1) on your site could be the most SEO friendly on the planet, but it will not outdo a pleasant, worthwhile experience.