The importance of differentiating a business amid uncertainty

By Mark Tigchelaar, P.Eng., GeoSolv Design/Build


Everyone is pretty tired from it all, but the lesson of changing-to-adapt to these “challenging times” is one worth learning, however painful it may be. The background noise in the industry has been very loud since the pandemic became the new “how’s the weather today?”

The chaos of Covid-19 began in early 2020, and the longer it goes on, the harder it will be for a lot of firms to have their voices heard clearly by their current and potential clients, especially if they are all essentially saying and offering almost the same services as one another. One area this is most true is in the world of engineering and construction. This is a marketplace with lots of competition, yet it’s a place where quality is of the utmost importance. Owners in this space look to find the highest quality for the absolute lowest price and they pit engineering firms or construction firms against one another, which can sometimes trap them in a race for the bottom, unless they have a strategy.

For engineering and construction firms in the foundations space, this is the perfect time to look at differentiating from the competition. Most, quite simply, want to get more work. Wanting work is all good and well, but what exactly does it start with; especially in what was already a super-competitive environment? How does a business truly distinguish itself from others competing within the same space? In its most basic form, it’s being different from the rest, and more importantly, being perceived as more favourably different than other businesses by potential clients.

Consider creating a differentiation strategy to win more good work (work that comes with a reasonable reward for effort) without just lowering prices to get work. A differentiation strategy provides clients with something unique, different and distinct from products or services other competitors may offer within the same marketplace. The main objective of implementing a differentiation strategy is to increase overall competitive advantage.

Differentiation strategies have a lot of advantages that can help to develop a unique niche within the industry. Some of the benefits of creating a clear differentiation strategy include:

  • Less price competition: A solid differentiation strategy lets a business better compete in the market with something other than lower prices. For example, a candy company may differentiate their candy by improving the taste or using healthier ingredients. Although its competitors have cheaper candy, they can’t provide the taste that consumers may want from that specific candy company. How does that translate in the foundation construction world? Be the business that provides practical solutions that no other business is offering or that cannot do as well as you.
  • Unique approaches: This benefit of a differentiation strategy is one that builds on the unique qualities of a company’s “product.” Companies should create a list of characteristics its services or approaches contain that their competitors lack. Those characteristics will clearly differentiate their approach to potential clients and will signal to them that their business is unique.
  • Consumer brand loyalty: Effective differentiation can create brand loyalty in customers if a business maintains the perceived quality of their services. For example, if a brand is marketed by a well-known person or company, it will likely increase brand loyalty because it enhances the value of that brand. Companies need to think of unique ways to keep clients loyal to their brand: offer better service, better recommendations and better communication, to name just a few obvious examples.
  • No perceived substitutes: A strategy that successfully differentiates can present the idea that there is no other approach available on the market to substitute it with. A business can gain an advantage in the market even when there are similar approaches or firms available because customers will not be willing to replace one approach or firm with another.


Here are some simple things companies can do to start:

  • Be innovative: Continuously push to improve client-facing processes to deliver better results to clients. Every single industry evolves and so should any business. If a company offers similar services as the competition, adapt service delivery or how the business works with its customers in a unique experience. Always try to get to the solution faster and more accurately than the competition can ever deliver.
  • Narrow the target market: By specializing in a very specific client niche, companies can focus on the skills or services that uniquely benefit that specific client. Being the best to provide a solution to their unique situation enables companies to maximize revenue and build stronger customer relationships.
  • Be known as the expert: Companies should build a reputation as an expert in their field through every avenue such as newsletters, social media, speaking engagements, etc. People who truly have a problem to solve will want to work with an expert, a thought-leader in the industry.


In closing, there is no magic formula to increase business, it really doesn’t exist. However, taking the time and effort to perform extensive research and taking a hard look at how a company is perceived by potential clients are key to seeing what a business can improve. Once companies have done their due diligence and implemented some of the most critical changes needed, they can begin building and maintaining momentum by delivering a unique client experience. 

Mark Tigchelaar is president and founder of GeoSolv Design/Build Inc. Tigchelaar is a licensed engineer in both Ontario and Alberta, chair of the Industry Advisory Board of York University and the past chair of the Canadian Geotechnical Society-Southern Ontario section. For inquirires about this article or ground improvement, reach Tigchelaar at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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Piling Canada is the premier national voice for the Canadian deep foundation construction industry. Each issue is dedicated to providing readers with current and informative editorial, including project updates, company profiles, technological advancements, safety news, environmental information, HR advice, pertinent legal issues and more.