I met with a client the other day and we quickly got on the subject of how to differentiate their business from the competition.
In some form or another I have had the exact same conversation with all of my clients. In a crowded and competitive marketplace, how can you be different?
It’s probably no surprise that the answer is not about products or services.
While you can gain ground on your competition with innovation, it’s not sustainable. Similar products from your competitors will be on the market and the battle continues.
Just like me, you are probably looking to build lasting relationships with your customers. After all, long-term relationships tend to be the most profitable and often lead to referrals. Referrals as you know are the best advertising money can buy. In this case, it’s free. Word of mouth marketing and repeat business cost your business far less advertising to acquire leads.
Everyone claims to have the best customer service. If you can follow up a marketing statement with “Well I should certainly hope so!” then it’s not an advantage at all. It’s a platitude. Here are some examples:
“We have the best customer service.” Well I should certainly hope so!
“We go the extra mile for our customers.” Well I should certainly hope so!
“Our people make all the difference.” Well I should certainly hope so!
“Customer satisfaction is our number one goal.” Well I should certainly hope so!
You get the idea.
Brand is the real advantage
So, what is your competitive advantage? In one word, it’s brand. Brand is not your logo or your style. Brand is what comes to mind when people think about your business. It’s your reputation. It’s the space you occupy in the mind of the public.
Not to get to philosophical or anything, but brand is a lot like Zen; when you start to explain it, it begins to lose it’s meaning.
Discuss brand with your team. Sit down and discuss how you think your customers perceive you. Check your social media channels for clues, sift through customer emails. What’s the mood?
Sometimes it’s easier to think of your brand as if it were an actual person. Look for keywords you might use to describe that individual such as reliable, flaky, smart, outgoing, weird, eccentric. Would you hang out with that person? If you answer honestly and you wouldn’t want to spend 5 minutes with them, you need to address some serious issues within your business.
It’s not easy to wrap your mind around brand, but when you start to define it, you begin to understand it. More importantly, you begin to understand how your audiences think about your business. Once you really understand what motivates your customers, a lot of opportunity opens up.
Good luck and be sure to leave a comment or contact me directly to continue the conversation. Thanks for reading!