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All posts in Differentiation

Great products always have a market. The question is this: What’s the value proposition that makes sense in difficult times? If your product is all about quality, you have two advantages over lesser products:

  1. Your product can enhance your customer’s brand
  2. You can offer risk-reduction purchasing strategies to your customers.

Both of these differentiators depend on the quality of your product. If your offering is really well-designed, and it stands out from the crowd, you can offer your customer a way to differentiate, simply because they own and use your product. This applies to furniture, lighting, stationery, web design, product packaging and a host of other things. If you can enhance your customer’s brand, you have unique value in a tough economy. Your customer needs to be differentiated, just as you do. This is one way you can be successful in tough times.

The second factor is about risk reduction. Of course you can always offer money-back guarantees, performance guarantees and the like. These are time-tested selling strategies. The problem is that if you don’t have a great product, too many customers will call in the guarantees. Ideally you want to offer the guarantee and have no-one take you up on it, because it costs money to service a guarantee. That’s why there’s such a strong link between quality and risk reduction. The better the quality of your product, the better a guarantee you can offer. The better the guarantee, the more compelling the risk reduction argument. And the more compelling your risk reduction offer, the more likely your customer is to buy from you—especially in tough times like these.

The bottom line: now, more than ever, quality sells.

Brands occupy space in the mind of the customer. The notion of positioning is a very important concept in product branding. Positioning is really creating a space in the mind of the customer that you can own, and that is not directly under threat from competitors.

The simplest way to think about positioning is to determine the key buyer criteria for your segment. What are the factors that buyers use in comparing products? It could be price, speed, quality, local availability, support, or any one of many possibilities. You need to figure it out. Read more

I’ve written before about how brands work like symbols in our brain. Successful brands cause us to respond by associating strong positive pictures, sounds and feelings (and possibly smells and tastes) to the brand stimulus. You can study how this works in your own experience. I want you to think for a moment about BMW. As you think about BMW, make a note of what your mind does. Do you see images? What do you see? Does anyone hear anything? Are you in the picture, perhaps driving the car? Or are you watching the car in your mind’s eye? How many of you have positive images of BMW? What you see are the results of BMW’s branding efforts. Read more

We are experts at ignoring and tuning out. We especially ignore things that are like other things we’ve seen before. It’s a natural response to the clutter that surrounds us every day. Our brains have learned to look for the new and the different, and to ignore that which is undifferentiated. Most of marketing is about efficiently defeating this built-in, natural reflex, and causing potential customers to see our offering as new and different and valuable. In product and service positioning, it’s vital to stand out. In this article I will talk about some simple ways of setting yourself apart from the pack. First, some preconceptions that we might as well remove right at the beginning.

  • Nothing has to be a commodity
  • Differentiation isn’t always about the product
  • Business is not a war with your customers.

Here’s an instructive story about differentiation in the most difficult of circumstances: Read more

There are many ways to innovate, but one of the most reliable is in the customer relationship. It’s reliable because you can quickly measure the impact of changes in the way you manage the relationship with your customers. You don’t even have to have a brilliant idea—your customers will often provide it for you (if you ask!).

Nordstrom’s is a great example of a retailer that has achieved differentiation through a unique approach to their customer relationship. Not only do they establish a customer-centric approach to doing business, but they specifically empower their salespeople to go out of their way to give customers a unique level of support and service. Read more