Seven Steps to Differentiation
Why bother to differentiate?
I would like you to imagine that I have two boxes in front of me. The boxes are identical, what is in them is identical and they were both manufactured by the same company in Taiwan. Two different companies sell the boxes and the only difference between the boxes seems to be the price. Box A is priced at and box B at Which would you buy?
Of course… you would buy box A. If you can see no difference between two products other than the price you will always buy the cheapest, it is human nature.
Now imaging that with Box B you also get delivery over the next 24 hours, a lifetime guarantee and a very attractive sales person to sell it to you, which one would you buy now? Of course you would buy Box B. Even though the boxes are the same the apparent value is now very different and you would be happy to spend more if you think you are getting better value.
The power of differentiation cannot be underestimated. In a highly competitive market we need to be seen to be different from all the other products or services out there or the customer will just buy the cheapest. So how do we do that?
Know your own business
What business are you in? I know…. You are in the pipe laying business, or you provide a catering service or sell insurance. This may be the business you think you are in but it was Charles Handy that said, “The business of business is to satisfy Customers”. So now what business are you in?
If you think you are in the pipe laying business, you may be very proud of the quality of the pipe, the strength of the re-enforced concrete that is in the pipe or the way each piece of pipe fits together. Your customers, however, couldn’t care less about your pipe!
What the customer cares about is getting fluid efficiently and economically from point A to point B. That’s all. So now what business are you in? Your competition may be selling pipes but if you start to sell the ability to get fluid from point A to point B you will differentiate yourself from your competition.
When Parker advertise pens they don’t advertise writing implements the advertise gifts. Kodak advertises memories. They know what business they are in. Have another look at your business and work out what it is the customers are buying.
Differentiate yourself from your competition by focusing on the end result the customers want not the way you will help them get it.
Look at the competition
Of course, you know what business you are in, you have been in it for years and you are an expert. But when was the last time you had a look to see what your competitors are doing? There should be one member of every sales team whose responsibility it is to gather competitor information. You should have all the competitor brochures, know where they are working and what they are offering. Keep an eye on their advertising and see what they are doing differently. We should be trying to develop USPs (Unique Selling Propositions). By definition a USP is unique. If the customers want it they have to come to you to get it.
Do the competitors have any USP that we should be copying? Are there opportunities that the competitors are missing?
Differentiate yourself from your competition by being unique
Talk to the Customers
When was the last time you talked to your customers? I know, you do it all the time. You often go to customers and ask them how the service was, whether the products arrived on time or if we fully satisfied the customer’s needs. But when was the last time you asked your customers what they would like to see you doing in the future?
The customers will not always be right of course. But having had a look at what your competitors are up to, it makes a great deal of sense to see what your customers want in the future. Good customers will help you develop your business if you ask them.
Differentiate yourself from your competition by focusing on what the customers want you to do next year.
Be Creative in the way you attract customers to your business
If I were to ask you where your new customers come from, after some thought, you would probably answer with the following four items:
Advertising; Referrals; Cold Calling; Walk Ins/Phone Ins
How do I know this? I have asked this question of thousands of groups all over the world and I always get the same four items, and there lies a problem. Both you and your competition are trying to get new customers in the same way. The customers, therefore, cannot see the difference between you and will just buy the cheapest.
We need to be much more creative in the way we attract new customers to our business. How can you be creative? I don’t know your industry but what about some of the following:
- Stop people in the street and give them a business card.
- Announce a new service by hanging from a hot air balloon
- Stick a coin on your business cards (do you think people would throw that away?)
- Give everybody in your team a really different new uniform
- Have a party in your factory and invite all your competitors’ customers
The list is endless. Ten minutes of every sales meeting should be dedicated to creativity.
Differentiate yourself from your competition by attracting new customers in creative and exciting ways.
Don’t forget the little things
There is a great book on the shelves of your local bookstore called “Don’t sweat the small stuff” (Richard Carlson). In selling it is different. “Do sweat the small stuff” (Richard Mulvey). It is the little things that can make a big difference in the minds of the customer. Consider the following:
- When was the last time you sent a customer a thank you card when you didn’t get the business?
- When you make a delivery include a small bar of chocolate with a thank you note.
- Send a personal SMS on every customers’ birthday
- Always be looking for an opportunity to do something extra. An extra 100 pages printed, an extra button just incase the customer looses one, a small battery charger and rechargeable batteries with the toy, a bag of mints in the hire car, fruit in the room at the hotel……. etc.
Interestingly the little things also cost a little amount of money but they make a big difference in the minds of your customer
Differentiate yourself from your competition by doing little things for your customers every day.
Be happy when you make mistakes
I know what you are thinking. You are thinking that if you make a mistake the customer will go to your competition next time but this isn’t exactly true.
Your customers don’t mind you making a mistake, what the customer really cares about is when you take forever to fix it, that is when they decide to go elsewhere next time they want to buy. If you can fix the problem straight away, however, the customer will be happy to come back because they know if they have another problem you will solve it without delay.
Time is of the essence here. Every member of your staff should have the authority to solve customer problems straight away. In this way you can keep a customer for life.
Differentiate yourself from your competition by solving customer’s problems straight away.
Being different isn’t difficult, but it is an effective way of letting the customer know there is more to the decision they have to make than just looking at the price.