Even my 9 year old likes to hear that he’s different and that we love him the best out of anyone. However, in business that difference is hard to achieve. Here’s how I know…In preparation for a training I’m doing on Differentiating Marketing Messages, I pre-surveyed a dozen CEOs about what they considered to be their differentiator in the market. Some were obviously reaching-they had no clue what their differentiator was but knew they had to have one so they just said something. Others truly believed that they had a big differentiator. Here’s the sad part and why I’m writing this blog: what CEOs think is a differentiator is less important than what buyers think is one. And as you know, 86% of buyers can’t see a difference between two vendors so clearly there’s a problem here. If your differentiator doesn’t dial up to saving more money, making more money, making things easier or faster than their CURRENT solution, then it’s meaningless. So here are the 7 differentiators you might think make you different but buyers don’t.
Quality of Work
Saying your quality differentiates you to a buyer is like saying you have a website. It’s the basics of what’s needed and whether it’s true or not, everyone is saying the same thing. Of course, by definition that means it’s NOT a differentiator. Why not make a claim that demonstrates this superior quality by saying something like “we reduce your time to find executive level candidates by 50% compared to the industry average”?
Years in Business
This is one of my favourites because it’s used so often. If you’re trying to prove that you know your stuff, that’s great but if you look at the aging population of North America, there are just too many of us in the same age bracket to be a meaningful value add. Instead, try to tie it into how exactly that experience causes the results to be meaningfully different. Along the lines of “Highest conversion rates in the industry due to 30 years’ front line experience”.
How You Solve a Problem
Your methodology is less relevant in messaging than the result. After all, if a heart surgeon is going to perform a life-saving operation on me, does he explain how he’s going to do it? No. He’s the expert. I don’t care. All I care about is living. It’s the same for a buyer. They want the result, not the ‘how’.
Again, the details of the makeup of your company or its dynamics are meaningless differentiators for buyers unless it ties into a better result for them. For example, instead of saying we are a 3 generation family company, why not say “we deliver x times faster because we’ve perfected our internal communications from being related for 3 generations and actually even all live next door to each other!”. Now that’s tying in the feature to the benefit.
Unless you’re the only person in your geography who does what you do and location is key to what you sell (ie.some type of physical service or retail) then your location is really not your differentiator. Most companies nowadays have wide coverage or geographic partners. Gone are the days of geographic monopoly. So instead of counting off all your locations in your elevator pitches, why not start with what better result you deliver?
Even when I worked for giant manufacturers, we customized special packs and projects for large customers like Costco and Walmart. Everybody customizes now, in every industry. Unless yours is so extremely rare in your industry and NO other competitors will do the same, then sadly this is not a compelling differentiator. Also, how important is customization to your buyer? For example, a business owner who custom manufactured parts for obsolete machines was a very popular business with Dupont who was merging with Dow and needed to rehaul and rehab a whole bunch of old machines. Do your research and see if custom is the unique thing that the market is bleeding for.
This differentiator is similar to the “how” in that it’s not really relevant to buyers. For example, whether you do sourcing direct or through 3rd parties or if you use a specific cutting edge technology to run a division are only relevant in what superior result they can deliver to the buyer. Always remember to ask yourself, ‘what’s in it for them?’ And make sure by talking to enough of them to figure that out without guessing.
If you find yourself in one of the above categories of false differentiators, don’t despair-there is absolutely a way to spin them to become more relevant to buyers. I should know, after all-that’s what I do for a living!