It is important to differentiate your business positively, not negatively. Sometimes, an entrepreneur can be too quick to please a vocal few, without first looking at what the majority of customers are doing, or how they are approaching your business.
Looking at various disincentives that businesses have in play, it’s always useful to look at what could have been done in a positive light to get the same outcome, and make more people happier in the process. For instance:
It is most industries’ norm to punish late payers. Instead, why not offer early payers a discount. You might be surprised at how many would be attracted to those kinds of terms. If you put these additional funds into a rainy day account, you may be able to pay for your wait time for payments from late payers, be more forgiving toward them, and make more friends in your business.
If you don’t believe this, test it.
Most companies look at their ‘Ideal Customer’, and stick with that profile far too long, to the detriment of other markets. You should be looking at what every list you make omits, not what they simply highlight. Focus on the exact opposite of your target market. It may be growing and has problems to solve that are also growing. Can you help? Can you offer them something different both from what they are getting now, and from what you are offering your core customers? If you are n’t sure, see if there is a way to test your theory before you start.
Do you have a Plan ‘B’? When you make a decision based on your core customer, have you thought about the possible lost dollars from other segments of your prospects? Once you have made decision, it’s hard to back off if it does n’t work. Think of the steps you will need to re-trace by muddling your message up, and possible earning bad reviews, or comments, from those that don’t ‘get’ your approach. Is there a way that you can test your theories without incurring too much damage, and have an exit ramp that you can circle back on? If you do this early in the process, it’s easier to come up with an alternative plan that suits everyone better, rather than getting so far into a process, it is like wading through a bog. Once it’s up to your waist, it’s tough to turn around and go back.
Of course, this point also requires testing in some way, but all agile marketing is based on testing and it is the best way to find the differentiation for your business against your competition. In fact, you should build test periods and methods into your everyday marketing efforts. This may be mire straight-forward than it appears at first. Above all, remember that differentiation is not solely about being different. It is about being different in a way that customers will pay for. Don’t just do one thing, to make one decision, to solve one problem, always test, always come up with a hidden bonus that will hook other prospect segments, not just your core prospects and customers.
“So, who are we, and what makes us different?” I have always asked that question of our clients to see if they have mastered this very important rule of marketing any business. Depressingly, most small businesses don’t know. If you are unclear of how to brand your business as different from any other, then how can your customers? This sounds a very simple thing to do but, in fact, it’s tough to be good at. It’s important, too ,because it makes up the important part of the customer’s ‘Value Proposition’.
This is a mental process that e go through in order to make decisions. The cost of any task can be broken down to its constituent points, and mean different things. (I am out of Marmalade. Shall I go and get some? How far is it? What is the weather like? Can I do without until the weekend?) But, in order to minimize or sidestep these calculations, every proposal must have as little cost as possible, thereby growing the Value part of the proposition in the customer’s mind, making the choice easier.
The most straightforward way of doing this is to show how you are different from anyone else out there. So, how can you come up with an honest, compelling, and easy to understand Cost/Value proposition?
It’s difficult, isn’t it? Because your customers and prospects want you to be different, they require you to be different, and this is the essence of the elusive marketing strategy so many companies long for. So, how about starting here?
Identify your ideal client:
Create a list of six to eight of your current ideal clients (Or prospects), and commit to sitting down with them, either face to face or over the phone for about fifteen minutes. Then,
Ask them these questions:
And note the answers with the following themes:
How do they see you, your product, your service, your company: Then press them for a follow up “Okay, we provide great service, that’s awesome, but tell me a story about a time we did.”
- Why did you hire us/buy from us in the first place? (What helped them decide to buy, what build trust, what resonated in your marketing and sales processes.)
- What’s one thing we do that you love the most? (Stick to one thing and help them get as specific as possible)
- What’s one thing we do that others don’t? (Again one thing –Get some industry comparison going – you might get some stories of how others have failed them in the past and there offer some interesting opportunities.)
- If you were to refer us what would you say? (Have them describe what you do best as though they were telling a friend. You an turn these answers into testimonials, with their permission.)
- Can you tell me about three other companies that you love? (It doesn’t matter who they are, if you are in a list with other companies, what sets them apart from their competition – that’s who you are.)
- Bonus: If you can pull this off, have them conduct an online search and simply ask them to type the phrase they would enter if you were no longer around and they needed to replace what you do for them. (I like to try to have them physically do this. It’s amazing what you learn from watching what people really do to find things online. Experience tells me you might not be optimizing your content for the same terms your prospects are looking for.)
The themes that come out time and time again are who you are in customers eyes.
If you are trying this with prospects, it will show you who you have to become to be a go-to vendor from their point of view.
One final thing: Do not accept Price as the only reason. Price means you are a place that people go to without thinking, so don’t le them off the hook that easy. There are many things that you do, that you haven’t noticed, so now is the time to see them through a customer’s eyes, collect evidence as to what you do better than anyone else, then come up with a business plan that includes and highlights these Value Proposition wins, and shape your next marketing campaign around them.
Now you have a sales and marketing strategy that highlights one thing (look at Wendy’s: “Now, THAT’s better.” They are launching new, salad based menu items. So ‘Better’ means not only better for you, but you feel better, when you eat it!), you have an avenue to the future. Change your internal and external working processes to highlight these, and you have kept things incredibly simple, while doing something very, very tough.