Quite often executive leadership and business owners will ask me to reveal the most powerful marketing strategy I have seen. I can say without hesitation that the most powerful marketing strategy has little to do with advertising, direct mail, web sites, referrals, blogs.. you know the tactical stuff.
No, before any of those things will really have any impact on your business, you’ve got to uncover and communicate a way in which your business in different from every other business that says they make what you make, serve what you serve, provide what you provide, or do what you do. You’ve got to get out of the commodity business. You’ve got to stake your claim on a simple idea or position in the mind of your prospective clients.
Here’s what I mean. I have a client that provides accounting and bookkeeping services. Essentially, they manage and produce balance sheets, pay taxes for the company and oversee all necessary financial reporting. What they do is often seen as a commodity, making it difficult for a prospective client to compare different companies. As a way to differentiate their business, they have begun to offer something they call their “Signature Financial Check Up”. Signature Financial Check Up is a unique way to give business owners the opportunity to tell them about their business and financials. They want to hear about organizations greatest business and financial challenges and, here’s the key, no one else in their business is offering anything like it. Prospects like the sound of it and are asking to know more. It’s too early to tell but I suspect this point of difference will open a lot of doors for them.
10 Ways to Differentiate
Let’s look at a number of tried and true ways to claim a unique point of difference.
Product – Can you offer a product that is so unique or even trendy that your business is associated with that offering? Or, can you extend a product and offer a valuable service to make the product more useful to the customer?
Service – The same goes for a service. Many times this can be the packaging of a service as a product. Consulting is often delivered on an hourly basis. Packaging a consulting engagement based on an outcome, with defined deliverables and fixed package price is a very effective way to differentiate a service offering. Don’t forget to give the service a powerful name!
Market Niche – Carve out an industry or two and become the most dominant player serving that industry. A really nice bonus to this approach is you can usually raise your prices dramatically when you specialize in this manner.
Offer – Can you become known by an offer you make? I know an accountant that offers her tax preparation clients a 100% refund on their preparation fee when they refer three new clients. They are the 100% refund tax gals.
Solve a Problem – Is there something that prospects in your market fear or seem to believe is universal for what you do? If so, focus on communicating how you have the answer – painless dentistry for example. I know an electrical contractor who found that what his clients appreciated the most was that his crew was on time. He began to promote the fact that they were the on time electrical contractors.
Message of Value – Many times there are things that you do that don’t get communicated. Extras that you provide or services you think should be included. Your positioning might just rest in more effectively communicating what you do. I know an office furniture dealer that has adopted the message – We Make Your Business More Valuable – to communicate all the things they bring to the party. Now, everything they do is focused on delivering on that statement. Everyone else in the industry sells furniture.
Unique habit – I know a financial advisor who has his high networth client’s perform their life long dream act in front of friends, family and colleagues – singing, juggling, playing the guitar, being a comedian, etc.
Guarantee – Can you offer a guarantee so strong that no one else in your industry would dream of doing it. This one frightens some people but, you probably guarantee your work anyway, you just don’t say so. Come out and boldly announce that you guarantee results and watch what happens!
Customer Service – Everyone knows the story of over the top customer service provided by Nordstrom’s. Create your own over the top customer response process, and word of mouth advertising will flow liberally. One of the greatest ways to kick this off is to over deliver on your first customer contact. Give them something more than you promised, give them a gift, give them a related service for free.
Against the competition – Many times you can create your category niche by looking for holes in the offerings of your competitors. If every one in the industry fails to address a certain problem, boldly grab on to solving that problem and use your competition as the point of difference.
Clues to Uncovering Your Difference
Look at your current clients. What common elements exist among your best clients? Interview your clients. See if they can tell you why they chose to work with you, why they stay, why they refer? Study your competitors more closely. What do they do that you could do better, what don’t they offer they you could, how do they position themselves?
Communicate the Difference
Once you find your chosen strategy or combination of strategies to differentiate your business, all of your advertising and promotion should be centered around shouting about that difference.
Commit to it, stay at it and resist the temptation to wander off in the next new direction. Building a brand, and that’s what I’m talking about, takes time and patience. The payoff, however, is what differentiates the winners from the losers in this big marketing game.
Need Help? If you’re an marketing professional looking for direction or an organization interested in getting out of competing on price, uncovering your point of difference or want to give your marketing efforts a strategic boost, contact us today.Ask for Advice Before You Ask Help!!!