How would you answer the question: “How is your business different?” If your answer involves “better customer service” or “we treat our customers better,” you have a problem. Unless you are in a situation like Southwest Airlines where the industry is notorious for lousy service and you can really stand out with good customer service, then good customer service is just the cost of playing in that market. Without a clear differentiator, you must rely primarily on relationships for new business. While getting new business by developing good relationships with prospects is a fine way to get customers, it is very limiting. Your opportunity for reaching new clients is limited by how many people you can meet and get to know. A Point of Differentiation To stand out from competitors, you need a point of differentiation. It can be inherent in how you do business or it can be created. The main consideration is to make sure that it matters to your customers. For example, if you are the insurance agent who dresses in all blue, that is not going to help you win customers. An example of an inherent point of differentiation is how Apple provides an end-to-end solution: from music at iTunes to the computer where you download and organize it to the music player. (By the way, the Steve Jobs biography is very interesting and gives insights into why Apple operates this way.) This is inherent in how they do business and a major point of differentiation in the computer and music industries. You can also create a point of differentiation. When my wife and I started looking for a house to buy, we knew quite a few real estate agents. However, when we decided to look for homes in the North Park and University Heights areas, we chose a real estate agent who we had only met once, but specialized in these areas of San Diego. He was able to give us great insights into these specific areas because almost all the homes he listed and sold were in these areas. I believe we found a better home for us because of our agent's specialization. Along these lines, a real estate agent could also specialize in helping people with special needs or interests. I do not know of any, but someone who specialized in pet-friendly areas or was extremely knowledgeable about the best schools in the area would be able to attract new clients without having to spend a lot of time developing a relationship. People would choose the agent based on their point of differentiation. Too Wide or Too Narrow? Most entrepreneurs struggle with being too many things to too many people. (I know, because I still struggle with this as well.) However, this is the antithesis of differentiation. You have to be willing to say “I can’t help you” to at least some people, so that you can better identify with the people who you are targeting. If you are a real estate agent who focuses on helping families find homes in the best school districts, you would tell a couple who are not planning to have children that you would not be a good fit. Yes, you could sell them a house, but it moves you away from your focus and dilutes your differentiation. And, it makes you more authentic to families looking for a home in a good school district. Any Questions? Feel free to respond to this blog post or call me at 858-220-0202 if you have any questions about differentiating your business. Of course, I would also be happy to work with you to really dig in and find out what makes your business different. With that information, you can successfully market and grow your business. Why can I help you? Because what makes me different from other marketing consultants is that I help companies identify and articulate their differentiators to make their marketing more successful.
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