This past week I had a phone conversation with a new business prospect and during our talk he kept saying “we’re just better than our competition.” After saying this about the 3rd or 4th time, I asked him what he meant. He then rattled off these next 4 points like he was just waiting for me to ask: better service, better features, better product, and the infamous…better price. Then I asked him the question that took the wind out of our discussion: OK, but how is what your business offers meaningfully different from the competition? After stammering for a bit and then saying the same thing 2 or 3 times (but saying nothing in the process) he let me know that he forgot about a meeting he had in just a few minutes and with that we hung up.
So, while this business owner couldn’t answer the question, I’m guessing you could. So, how is your company meaningfully different from competitors? Are you sure? According to the Harvard Business School, 99% of executives think their business is different from its competitors. Unfortunately, most customers can’t tell the difference between your business’ offerings and those of similar businesses because they often won’t take the time to understand the subtle differences that make one company’s products or services better. In the process you’ve spent considerable money and resources on educating them on why your company is “better” when all they want to know is what you have to offer that the others don’t and how does it benefit the customer.
Instead of trying to be better, build a strategy around a simple way that your company is different, even distinctive, from the pack. Being different makes you irreplaceable to your customers, and being irreplaceable leads to greater loyalty. And yet, many businesses are afraid to be different because that means taking a risk and walking a different path. Making matters more difficult is the fact that when businesses ask for customer feedback, customers can tell you how they want you to improve, but they can’t tell you how to be different.
You see “Better is not better; Different is better” and here’s why. Aside from being difficult to prove, being the best is largely subjective. Would you say a pair of Nike shoes is better than Adidas? Perhaps to you but the other person may not think so. Second, being different gets you noticed, and in our ever-crowded marketplace, being noticed is the all-important first step for standing out from the competition. What’s more, being different creates marketing advantages that “being better” just cannot compete with.
With business ever-changing, it’s critical that growth-oriented companies think differently not only in terms of the products that are developed for the various customer segments but also how they go about marketing those in ways that captivate the attention of the customer. People want interesting products and they want them marketed in interesting ways. You see, it’s not about being better or the best. It’s about finding a way to take who you are, what you make or what you offer and create a relationship with prospects and current customers that they find instantly fascinating.
Think of it like this. Imagine that on the other side of the door from where you are is where relationships happen, loyalty happens, sales happen, and profits happen. That is the side of the door where your prospective customers are. But get through the door, you have to knock. And if you can knock in a compelling, persuasive and interesting way and introduce yourselves, and if you provide people with messaging and content that is instantly captivating, then they will open the door and you get to go through to the side where all the good stuff lives. Ask yourself why it is that you remember certain brands or specific marketing messages from various companies …maybe even your competitors. It’s not because they look or sound like every other company. Not a chance. You remember them because they had a strong brand and distinctive message. Captivating one’s attention is the shortcut to persuasion and selling more. And in a competitive environment, the most fascinating option ALWAYS wins. Always.
So here are three ways that your company can start setting themselves apart from competitors:
- Adopt the idea of marching to your own drummer. Don’t be afraid to do something that people within your company, and even a few of your customers, may not initially like. Experience teaches that it’s OK to have some detractors. In fact, having a few critics is essential. The undeniable reality is that if you’re not eliciting a negative response from someone somewhere, then you’re probably not that fascinating to anyone. No one remembers lukewarm!
- Have an idea for how you will be different. Any idea can be a good one, even the crazy-sounding ones. Unfortunately, most ideas that are deemed crazy are often dismissed. If you want to be different, you need to embrace a culture where any idea can be tried. More on this at https://laadsmarketingblog.com/2014/03/17/heres-to-the-crazy-ones/
- Don’t over-listen to customers. I think we would all agree that asking customers for feedback is always valuable. But you can’t let your customers drive every aspect of what you do. Take your own lead.
I’ll leave you with two questions to ask yourself to help start the process of being seen as different: what can we offer that’s REALLY different from what our competitors are doing? What are we doing just like our competitors that we can change for our customer’s benefit. Then set up your product or service in a way that delivers on those needs in a way that your competitors don’t or won’t.
That can make all the difference.
Rolf Gutknecht is vice president, director of account services for LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Rolf on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com. You can also connect with Rolf on LinkedIn.