So, what makes your business different?
Most often I hear answers like: “We have better customer service.“, “We’re bigger.” and “We are more creative.” The problem with defining your business with ‘er’s and ‘more’s is that you are creating a comparison to someone else and, by doing so, you’re differentiating on degrees, not on sustainable ideas.
Why blend in when you can stand out?
No one could have imagined back in the 90s that consumers would pay $4 for a coffee. But they did. It certainly wasn’t just because the coffee was tastier. No, it actually had very little to do with the the coffee at all. What Howard Shultz, Chairman and CEO of Starbucks, set out to do was create an anomaly — when everyone else was selling coffee, he sold an experience. His vision was to create a third place, between home and work, where people could connect, relax and converse. He renamed coffee sizes. It wasn’t small, medium and large; it was short, tall, grande and venti. The names of his coffees were exotic. He brought the concept of Fair Trade to the masses. The stores were outfitted with comfortable chairs, warm colors and even fireplaces. Things that sound commonplace today, yet were anything but back then.
He made the experience so different that you couldn’t possibly draw a comparison to others.
So, what is the experience you deliver to your customers that defies comparison? If I were to call your office, who would answer the phone? What would they say? When you submit an RFP, how does it stand apart from every other? When you walk into a sales meeting, how do you present your company? If I were to go to your website, would it sound just like your competitor’s?
Let me put it another way…
One day, a number of years ago, I walked in to my office from lunch to find a beautifully wrapped package on my desk. I was perplexed why anyone was sending me a present, but that didn’t stop me from tearing it open to see what was inside. Laying delicately amongst a bed of tissue was an egg. Also in the package was a letter that, in essence, said: “We know how much care and attention you put into every package that leaves your company. If this egg is fully intact, you know how much care and attention we put into delivering packages on behalf of our clients.”, signed Shepherd Couriers. In the world of courier businesses, every company either says their faster or cheaper…in fact, we had dozens of sales letters from courier companies, fighting to get our business, singing that very hymn. But none were successful. That was until we received the egg. That company was the antithesis of fast and cheap. They stood for care and attention. And, that was a message that meant something to us. We gave them our business almost immediately.
Discover what you do differently today:
Finish this sentence – Our customers pay more for, and choose, our product and / or service because _____________. Another way of thinking about this is to identify what you’re doing that your customers love and your competitors find difficult to replicate.
Identify what others think you do differently:
Ask your customers, employees, peers and partners:
Uncover what you could do differently:
What untapped need, problem or pain do you see facing your customers, and how can you use a core strength to resolve it?
Coco Chanel once said, “In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different.” When everyone around you is singing in auto-tune, why on Earth would you want to join the choir? Stand alone and sing your heart out.
(photo via ktpupp)