Understand where you fit best
Differentiation is about understanding where you fit best and can deliver the most value - and that will often mean building on features that deviate from the average characteristics of your industry. By focusing on those features that achieve what your customers want, you'll give buyers a reason to choose your brand (your product, your service) over others.
Sharpen your focus and think about your business through the eyes of your customers. If you aren't offering something distinctive in the market place then there is not much reason to have confidence that it will grow. Ask yourself?
- What makes your company different?
- What will make your company better?
- What do you want your customers to think?
- What do you want your customers to do?
- Change your marketing message
- Focus on product development
- Do your research
- Stay out of the killing fields
Change your marketing message
How you market your business and its products is likely to change. At it's simplest, you are moving your marketing message away from influencing customers through pricing to talking about all the other benefits of your business' products or services. This needs a marketing approach that emphasizes those features of your company's products and services that make them stand out from your competitors. Advertising and promotion may well be through the same channels (social media, print advertising, free product samples, etc) but the message is different.
Focus on product development
To shift your customer's focus away from the price of your product and services you must place more emphasis on product development. The goods or services your company offers must simply be better made or offer features your competition has yet to integrate into its own offerings to consumers. This may well require constant refinement of your products and services to keep your company ahead of the competition and first in the minds of customers in your market area.
Do your research
Any differentiation strategy must invest time in researching customer needs. Determining what's missing in the market can help with product development and with the marketing message by helping you develop products and services consumers want to buy and by promoting your company as a provider of the best, most-needed products and services in your niche.
Stay out of the killing fields
When a company starts selling the right things to the right customers in the right way the whole world starts to look different.
'Stay out of the killing fields' is the title of a session we sometimes run when we are working with boardrooms at Business Doctors. It's one of the tools we have used down the years to explore this idea of selling the right thing to the right customers in the right way. The flip side of this is ending up in the killing fields. because you aren't competing well enough on:
- Cost (my mainly having a cost focus and going head-to-head with the competition on price)
- Differentiation (by having a strong focus on your point of differentiation in the marketplace)
- Having a strong enough niche offer
The killing fields idea is just our way of visualizing the particular problems that arise when the business is unfocused: that is, you run the risk of ending up as a commercial also-ran with no specific competitive edge. If you look at these three ways to stand out to your customers as three points of a triangle, any business model that isn't taking the customer offer towards one of those points by definition located somewhere in the 'killing fields' between them. And that of course is what you should be trying to avoid. Simple really.