Differentiation: How to stand out from the crowd

As a human being – you are unique. You are one of a kind amongst billions of human beings.

Think of your business in this way. What is special about it? What makes it truly different from your competitors? The business guru and author, Michael Porter, says that there are only two fundamental business strategies: Low Cost and Differentiation.

For example, there are many retailers out there who promote low prices. This is fine – as long as they can sustain low costs. However, many new retailers focus on low low prices and go out of business fast fast fast.

The other fundamental strategy, is ‘differentiation’.  Another way of saying this is: ‘Standing out from the crowd’.

The first question to ask is – what is your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)?

This was a term coined by Rosser Reeves, the copywriter who eventually ran the Ted Bates advertising agency in New York. Once you know your real USP, there are many things which you can do to make your enterprise stand out from the crowd.

Here is one way in which you and can figure out your USP. Set aside half a day to do this exercise. Gather together a team of people to help you.

You will need lots of large sheets of paper. Start by writing down the answer to the following question:

Why do our customers buy our products / services?

If your team is familiar with Mind Mapping, this would be a great way of capturing their answers.

As the session progresses – your job as facilitator is to use the Socratic method of probing deeper and deeper to find out the real reasons why people buy from you. Socrates would never accept the first answer which people gave him. He kept on saying, “Yes – but why is this the case?” If you do this in a consistent, non-confrontational way, you will be amazed at what your team comes up with.

You need to deepen the enquiry to cover all of your products and services in all of the vertical, geographic and other markets which you sell to.

The second half of the session asks the question:

Why do companies buy from other sources?

Step three is to cancel out the ideas / answers which are the same for your company and the competition.

At the end of the session – the answers which remain for your enterprise will reveal your true USP. If you don’t have one – this is the time to start thinking about creating one.

Once you have decided what your USP is, distil the answers into one single corporate USP. Your mission is to then tell your prospects and clients about it.

Keep educating them about why you are so special.  Once you’ve told them – tell them again.

Written by Nigel Temple, marketing consultant, trainer, speaker and author.

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