A challenge for most business owners is the idea of, “how do I provide a unique product or service that differentiates me from my competition?” As I have discussed before, often times when I ask a potential client how they differentiate themselves, I hear things like; they have superior quality and exceptional customer service.
There was a time when these types of things were a core differentiator. For example, in car manufacturing, there was a period of time when quality was an issue. Cars with allot of quality issues were known to be “lemons”. People were concerned about buying a new car, because they weren’t sure what they were going to get. The car manufacturing industry recognized that improving their quality, could be a differentiator, and capitalized on this idea with marketing slogans such as Ford’s, “Quality is Job 1”.
After a period, everyone caught up and quality was no longer a differentiator. Now it is simply expected. If you were to go down to the car lot to pick a car, you likely won’t hear a salesperson talk a lot about the quality of the product. Instead you would likely hear about whatever would differentiate them today.Quality or customer service could be a core differentiator if you are in an industry that traditionally has had poor quality or bad customer service, however, without this being the case, these types of things do not differentiate you from your competition. They are expected.
A second point to consider is if you are doing the same thing as your competition, then you are not different. This might sound pretty simple, although it is amazing how many times I run into owners who are doing the exact same thing as their competition, but they believe they do it better.
A rule of thumb is…. better is not different, unless you can measure it. More importantly, “better” is generally measured by the customer in terms of what is important to them, and it can only be measured in comparison to something else. What I mean is, you can tell me you have better service. Better service than who? Who are you asking me to compare you to? Your competitor? Amazon? Uber? McDonald’s? In order for me to really know who is better, you need me to go somewhere else and I am not really sure you want me to do that.
So how do you figure out what makes you different? Simple answer…. look at the alternatives available outside of your industry or solution. What I mean is no matter the solution you are providing your customers, there is always another option. This is a different type of competition and it may give you a different answer.
For example, let’s say you install floors. Your competition could be other floor installers, but what other alternatives could people have? They could install it themselves; they could not change their floor covering at all; they could get their floors stripped or their carpets cleaned, etc. How do you compete with these things? What if what made you different is that you could install a room of floors, in the time someone was at work….no fuss, no mess…..leave your home in the morning and see the transformation happen like magic.
This type of approach allows you to suggest new ideas to your customers and has them consider you and our services in a new light