While all businesses know, at least theoretically, that differentiation is one of the major keys to success, it is often difficult to find true differentiation anywhere.
Company after company offers up the same products and services, as well as the same claims of excellence, e.g., “we are customer focused,” followed by ditto mission statements.
It is not just products or services that have been commoditized today. Look at a picture of a mall and their store directory. You would be hard pressed to know what city or state you are in – they are all cookie cutter offerings.
Most businesses struggle to move away from commoditized offerings in hopes of avoiding the competitive leap frogging to the bottom of the margin ladder. Let’s face it: 99% of products and services are easily duplicated – but how they are served up is another story. Apple figured that out by providing the mall-magnet stores for techno junkies. Come play and stay and ask and bask.While Apple’s products often have their own competitive advantages, fact of the matter is, competing products give them a run for market share again and again. But few competitors dish up the “how” we sell as well as they do. In fact, many of their competitors make it so difficult to get help with buying decisions; they drive customers into the waiting arms of Apple stores.
Have you looked at your website side by side with your top three competitors lately? How are you standing out from the crowd? Are you all touting similar claims? Do your salespeople have compelling differentiators to sell or are they relying on their magnetic personalities and vague claims? Yeah, sure relationships matter a whole lot. But don’t you think your competition has some solid “customer relationships” too? You bet they do. Don’t let price be the tiebreaker.
Sell a value proposition that your customers and prospects can’t get anywhere else. It is easier than you think if you concentrate on the “how” you sell, not the “what.” Try reframing your marketing “claims” to meet the criteria below:
To differentiate your offering, statements should be…
- Objective vs. Subjective: “Good quality” is defined differently by every customer so using the phrase itself means nothing.
- Support with Metrics (when possible): If you quantify ‘good quality’ by saying: we have “less than .05% returns each year,” it will convey quality more objectively.
- Not a Promise: “We will deliver within 24 hours” – Don’t make promises, no one is buying them.
- In Past Tense and Not Stated by the Competition: Tell how elaborate your accountability and metrics are for on-time delivery along with your current rate: “Our on-time delivery has been tracking at 98.7% for the last 24 months.” Then prove it by showing how you track all the variables that lead up to successful on-time delivery, such as the number of forward days of inventory in stock.
Here’s a final note: Be sure that you talk to customers about what they truly value, not what you think they should value. Don’t sell the fact that you have been in business for 100 years and have won umpteen awards. If the customer doesn’t care, (which by the way, research shows that most don’t) then don’t waste airtime or print investments pushing what doesn’t matter to them.
Defend your business with solid differentiation and relevant competitive advantages.