Differentiate or Die

in General Marketing Ideas, Reviews

Business books tend to come in one of two varieties – staid, technical and jargon filled or brash and bold but with a clear point. With a subtitle like, “Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition”, the recently updated Differentiate or Die;, by Jack Trout and Steve Rankin, clearly falls into the latter camp. But despite the somewhat over-the-top name, the book makes a compelling case for being different and focussing on those differences when promoting your business.

Differentiation is a bit of a pet topic of mine at the moment. Customers have ample choices when it comes to meeting their needs. If you’d like to eat out there are dozens of good, quality restaurants to choose from. Need a taxi? The Yellow Pages serves up 40 local firms – all promising a ‘fast, reliable service’.

The problem is that with so much choice (and every business saying the same thing in the same way), there’s virtually no reason for your customers to pick you out over the competition.

Differentiation brings us back to that business standard – the Unique Selling Proposition (or Point if you prefer) – which dates back to the 1960’s and beyond. Your USP is simply the reason someone would buy from you rather than your competitors. But for such a widely accepted concept, its usage is a little thin on the ground.

So as a little refresher course, let’s dissect the term a bit.

UNIQUE – ‘Being the only one of its kind, without equal or like.’ That’s what unique means. So what’s unique about your business? The product or service itself may be similar or even identical to what your competitors are doing but that doesn’t mean that you can’t emphasise other elements that distinguish you.

Trout and Rankin identify a range of ways to be unique, including; your product itself or a specific attribute of it, market leadership, preference amongst consumers, heritage, being first to market, popularity, how a product is made or your market specialty all make good differentiators. Unfortunately price and customer service are difficult to use as they are both easily copied and claimed by most businesses.

Start by listing everything that can said about your business and then working out the ones that are truly unique to your business. In other words, no one else in your marketplace can say the same thing.

SELLING – A lot of promotion and advertising in particular is becoming increasingly entertainment-led while at the same time becoming ever less effective at actually selling anything. If you’ve millions to spend on a campaign to help make people think nice things about your business then go for it. Realistically though, you’ve probably got a tight budget and a need for people to actually take action and buy from you now.

Your unique factor needs to give people a reason to buy and, as such, should be at the cornerstone of all your promotion.

Once you’ve identified something unique that matters to your audience, find a simple way of putting it across, keep focussed on it to the point of obsession and promote it in as many ways as possible. Whatever you do, don’t fall victim to the pleasant sounding but normally meaningless advertising speak of ‘commitment to excellence’, ‘reliable service’ or ‘meeting customer needs’.

Update: A useful addition and good overview from Copyblogger

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