Business differentiation is an eternal quest, almost a bit like the hunt for the holy grail. Because once you’ve worked out how to differentiate yourself from the crowd, you’ve cracked your target audience, a loyal following and your success is inevitable.
It’s a common trait for businesses to communicate features of their products (the ‘whats’) to their targeted audience, telling potential buyers what makes their product great, what whistles and bells they are offering and why they are the best to buy from.
This approach however doesn’t actually tell the audience why they should buy what your offering or why they should buy from you – it doesn’t differentiate your business or your product / service. It doesn’t tell them how it will make a difference to them, add value or solve the issue the client has (the ‘why’).
The thing is we, as the supplier of the product or service, know what makes our offering great. We work with our products every day, we know every intricate detail, cost and development stage to make our product better than our competitors. And often we think that our audience has the same interest in each of those details.
It’s a harsh truth, but often they don’t!
Our customers don’t necessarily care that we’ve used this version of whatever because in our opinion it does this, that & the other. The fact we’ve used one material over another might be of interest to them but it’s probably not going to be a hook to get them in the buying process (or sales funnel). But why aren’t they interested (yet!)?
They’re no yet interested because we haven’t told them how our proposition is going to enhance their lives, solve their problem or get them ahead of the crowd.
I’m currently listening to ‘Start with Why’ by Simon Sinek (hence the blog!) in which he demonstrates this with a very clear and modern example of how this can impact a brand and its sales.
Simon talks about ‘TiVo’, a brand that produces ‘a digital video recorder…, providing an onscreen guide of scheduled broadcast programming television programmes… records series, searches’ and so on. And they’ve been doing this since 1999.
Now I’m no electronic know-all, I don’t have a lot of interest in that type of thing. But if these guys invented this type of system I thought I would have known about it.
Instead I knew about this new way to watch tv because they hooked up with Sky and latterly Virgin Media.
When TiVo were promoting their market leading launch, they simply stated what features the system would offer – you can record series, you can search to see what’s on, there are a lot of channels.
To someone like me, who isn’t technically minded, it sounded like an electronic version of the tv magazine and why would I use my tv remote when I could simply open a magazine and have a look?
As Simon Sinek says, if they’d approached it in a different way (much like Sky actually did) then they would have had me hooked straight away.
An approach with the emphasis of ‘ do you want to be in control of what you watch? Do you want to choose how you spend your time? Take control of your life’ makes a massive impact in comparison and allows the consumer to really believe that they are running their lives, choosing what they want to see and not having to see more and more adverts should they decide that for example as they can simply skip them or watch at a later date.
Now that really means something totally different to me and has me sat up in my chair answering the questions and wanting to know how I can have this control and choice!
And so it follows that with many brands or products you are offering. Don’t start with the features – the fact it’s the quickest, it’s had 10 years of development or its cutting edge. That’s all great information for a customer who is in the ‘buying zone’ already and has the knowledge that they need something like this in their lives, they’re just not sure which one yet.
But start with ‘why they need this’ in the first place; how will it improve their lives and of course why do you do it – that can have such a huge impact, especially further down the line with regards to customer loyalty.
Apple are famous for stating that they go against the grain or ‘challenge the norm’, that’s why they have such a cult following. It’s almost irrelevant that they build computers or mobile phones, loads of companies do. What you’re actually doing when you buy Apple is creating an image, an impression that you like to live ‘outside the norm’ or against tradition or with certain lifestyle attributes.
So when you are considering your own brand and the products/services within that brand, think carefully about what you are truly offering (this ties in with your brand values too).
Are you offering time freedom for somebody or clarity in times when time is precious and life moves at a ferocious pace? Are you offering a way to feel they are in control or leading a trend so making them feel good?
The reason I offer my business services, or my ‘why’, is that I believe all small & medium businesses deserve revitalised inspiration, excitement and fun as well as the opportunity to gain clarity and bring focus to their businesses, finding time for new idea generation and solutions.
My features are my years of expertise, the marketing and strategic planning tools I introduce them to, process evaluation and the ability to project manage / coach for them.
My features or the skills I offer could be seen to be similar to some other consultants and consulting agencies. However my point of difference is the why, the reason I do what I do. My point of difference is my energy, my inspiration, my bespoke approach, my experience and my offer of clarity and drive for growth and success.
What’s your reason for being?