Are you effectively using competitive differentiators to stand out from the crowd and win customers? Can you or your sales team clearly explain to customers why your business is different from the competition and why this should matter to them (i.e. the “so what” factor)?
Here are some tips for incorporating your differentiators into your sales and marketing strategy.
Very few businesses can sell and survive on a price differentiator alone. And even if your business operates in a saturated and highly competitive market, there are always facets of your business that can make you stand apart from your competition.
For example, consider the service contractor market. If your customers live in a town, city or suburb, then there’s a good chance they have plenty of choice when it comes to painters, landscapers, plumbers and so on. And while price is important, it’s important to be clear on what else you have to offer.
How can you really help your customers? Are you consultative? Can you advise them on the best solution for their needs rather than always trying to upsell unnecessary work? Is there a product that would be a better fit for their needs than the one they’ve requested a quote for? Do you have a strong reliability record? Do you supervise all work? Are you a good communicator?
Then ask yourself what these mean to your customers – what is the “so what” of your approach? Is it money-savings, quality workmanship/products that will last, etc.?
This is just the first step, and you may find your differentiators vary depending on who your customer is and what they need. But the important thing is they are starting to emerge; next you’ll need to define these differences in the contrast to what your competition is doing.
To help refine your differentiators, it’s important to identify the differentiators your competitors are claiming for themselves. Competitive weaknesses are just as important as strengths, so try to uncover your competitors’ vulnerabilities too and where your strengths come into play against these.
Ask around, ask your customers and check online reviews (Google+ Local, Yelp.com, Angie’s List, Service Magic and community discussion forums). If you lose a deal, ask why.
What matters to you doesn’t always matter to your customers. Listen to your customers’ needs, survey them or post a poll on Facebook asking what they value about your business. Use what you find out to further refine your differentiators.
One of the most important distinctions between small businesses and larger companies is the role that the small business owner plays as a brand advocate. As a small business owner, the reputation and success of the business hinges on you. So be true to your business values as you work to define and communicate your differentiators. Avoid glibness, have integrity and be honest. Be prepared to explain why you are better than the competition without walking all over them – define your positives in the light of their negatives and back up your claims with customer testimonials and references.
To help you really define your differentiators, write them down. Prepare an elevator pitch and consistent marketing messages that can be rolled into your web copy, emails, phone calls and so on. Here are a couple of archived SBA blogs that can help: