ways to differentiate

We are often asked how organizations can better differentiate themselves in highly competitive industries. Organizations understand that not being able to stand out minimizes their ability to secure new business without lowering prices.

The organizations that do a better job at differentiating – and communicating their differentiators – cave in less often.

Here are a couple ways that can help your organization better differentiate.

  1. Discover what you are delivering but not taking credit for in your sales message

We have learned in working with organizations in hundreds of industries that there is often similar messaging within a market that everyone feels compelled to say. It can be things such as “in business for x years,” “we’re the company you can trust,” or “we’re there when you need us.” Cliches have no meaning.

Yet, we have also learned there are many ways in which companies deliver every day that is not being shared. For example,

  • A bank could claim: “We passed 100% of our regulatory compliance checks during the previous year.” (Even though regulatory compliance is a fundamental responsibility of banks, not all banks pass 100% of their compliance checks).
  • An architecture firm could claim: “90% of our clients came from referral or are repeat clients.” (How many competitors are claiming this, even if they can?)
  • A manufacturer or distributor could claim: “We have had less than 1% return for the last 3 years.” This is something potential buyers want to know, and it can impress them that you care enough about this deliverable that you track it, and then communicate it.

Tout your performance record every chance you get, do so in a way that is true and accurate for your company and relevant to your customers. If competitors don’t do this, good for you. Even if it is a given in your industry, it can help to build confidence with prospects, and remind customers why they choose you. Always make sure statement metrics can be validated, as in true!

  1. Same product or service commoditized but with a competitive advantage message

One of the best ways to stake out a competitive advantage is to take credit for what everyone else in your industry is already doing. State “it” before your competitor does.

An interior design firm claimed: “Our AutoCAD design allows for same day changes and saves you ten days in project scheduling.” If most design firms have that capability but don’t spell out the value to the prospect, they might think their technology is inferior.

One of our clients a few years back was a regional pest control business that was trying to find new ways to differentiate itself from the competition. At one of the workshops we led with the top management, we went through all the possible competitive advantage statements, and talked about everything that might be considered special.

One of the top executives mentioned, “Well, we do a lot of training.” Another executive was not convinced that this was a valid point of difference – “everyone does that – it’s required.”

Don’t homeowners paying for any service want to know the individuals delivering the service are well trained? Of course, they do, but companies rarely talk about this as an attribute. Don’t take for granted that which is taken for granted!

This was a great opportunity – a hidden gem of competitive advantage.  We did some more research and were able to accurately describe that the company spent over a million dollars a year on technical, safety and environmental compliance training for its employees – and this became one of the key elements of the company’s revised marketing and sales messages.

Subsequently, we have had other service companies reveal the same investments such as a commercial HVAC firm, window installers, landscape companies, etc.

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