If your company is innovative enough to develop a truly unique, profitable offering, the following inevitably happens: competition springs up from nowhere to imitate your product or service, undercut your price, and steal market share. It's immutable.
So in order to differentiate yourself, you attempt to position yourself as the quality leader or the low price provider or as the service king. You soon find yourself in a battle with other companies - all claiming to have the highest quality, lowest prices, or best service.
A marketing free-for-all ensues. Each competitor tries in vain to shout with the loudest voice that his or her business is superior. Customers get jaded, and discount all claims made by any of the companies.
Obviously, different is better than "me too”. However, the challenge isn't strictly whether or not to be different, but rather how to communicate those differences in a way your customers will believe and embrace. Remember, prospects believe you’re lying when you use generalities, and that you’re telling the truth when you use specifics.
Therefore, all you marketing efforts must accomplish one thing: Articulate why customers will be making the best possible decision if they buy your product or service. That’s it.
If it’s so simple, then why do most businesses have so much trouble with differentiation? Two reasons. Firstly, they don’t make a commitment to understanding what their prospects deem most important when making a buying decision – what are those emotionally charged decision making criteria. Secondly, businesses generally do a lousy job of articulating – in very specific terms - why they are the best choice versus those decision making criteria.
Unfortunately, marketing communications has become a huge jumble of hyperbole, fluff, platitudes, and yawnably unbelievable, black hole nothing words that nobody believes!
An air conditioning repair company harnessed the power of marketing and tripled the size of its business within two years. Prior to changing its approach, this company had been guilty of running "me too" advertising.
Customer surveys confirmed that fast service was the number one decision making criteria for choosing an air conditioner repair company – “when it’s hot and my air conditioner breaks, I want it fixed fast”. But all the competitors claimed to have fast service. It wasn't as if nobody else had figured out that being fast was important – but nobody was saying they were fast in a way that would allow them to stand head and shoulders above the competition – and make them more believable.
The next year this company ran their usual Yellow Pages ad, at no additional expense, but changed the wording to say, "Because we have 51 repairmen on call 24 hours a day to man our 17 service trucks, we guarantee your home or business will be cool within 2 hours of your call - or there's no charge for the repair." And that was just the headline!
The rest of the ad went on to explain that if the crews were too busy to fix the unit right then or if the repair would take longer than 2 hours, portable units would be brought in to cool the house at no extra charge until the repair was completed. Bottom line, the customer would be cool in a hurry - period.
The number of calls the ad generated quadrupled in less than one month after the new Yellow Pages book came out. More importantly, they were able to convert 50% of the calls into jobs - up from 38% the year before.
Understand what the customer deems most important when making a buying decision, and then educate them about why you are the best choice – in very specific terms. It’s simple, but very few businesses do it.