brand promise, competitive advantage, differentiation, Memorability, sales, taglines, target audiences, Understanding Your Environment

Defining Your Differentiator With Detail

I was prompted to write this post because of recent exercises and discussions in which I engaged related to how an organization differentiates itself from competitors. Earlier in the week, related to an opportunity I was pursuing, I needed to express in writing what makes me and my organization different from (well, really better than) other marketing consultants. I also had a discussion yesterday with a prospective new client — one in the very initial stages of creating a brand/identity — about the importance of calling out in marketing activities, including branding, what made his shop different from competitors.

Q: Why Should Your Target Audience(s) Choose Your Product or Service Over That of A Competitor?

Answering the above question is no easy feat! In certain industries, and with particular product and service offerings, it can be extremely difficult to identify a differentiator, particularly if your organization operates in a highly regulated industry where certain product and service features are limited or mandated by state or federal regulations. I’ll give an example from my corporate marketing days. I worked for two health plans who served individuals qualifying for state-funded health care coverage, such as Medicaid. The states in which the health plans operated had very specific guidelines regarding what plans could and couldn’t offer members related to the various healthcare coverage programs for which they were contracted. This made it very difficult to create and execute program benefits, features, services, etc. that stood out from competitors. For example, on the customer service and coverage front, state-contracted health plans were required to achieve a mandated level of customer service and coverage. One of the ways plans attempted to stand out was to offer tangible wellness benefits such as free car seats, bike helmets, etc.

Despite the type of challenge described above, I believe each and every organization can and should identify what makes them unique/special/different (in a positive way!) from competitors. To aid you in landing on a “differentiator with details”, i.e., an explanation that has some “meat” to it and isn’t vague or general, I’ve outlined steps and questions to use as you brainstorm individually or with others at your organization about how and why your products and services outshine your competitors, i.e., why your organization rocks!

Stand out from the crowd and different concept , One red balloon flying away from other white balloons on light green pastel color wall background with reflections and shadows . 3D rendering

STEPS FOR DETAILING YOUR DIFFERENTIATOR

Step One: Identify Broad Differentiation Categories In Which Your Organization Falls

  • Determine the broader categories on which your organization can differentiate its products & services. Note that there will likely be some overlap and your organization will fall into several categories.
    • convenience (location, online/website user-friendly tools & apps, hours of operation, portability of service/product; ease of use of product or service)
    • product features (consider how they speak to the various senses: taste, feel, appearance, sound, smell)
    •  less tangible benefits, such as free assistance on certain topics or activities or ongoing e-communications that educate client on topics of importance to them
    • customer service (hours, days, quality, free vs. cost – does client have to buy service package?)
    • speed (how much turnaround time to receive service or product post-order/engagement?)
    • depth of expertise (# of years in business, in a particular industry, on a particular topic, background of organization leadership, etc.)
    • price/value (this can be tricky to promote, and often isn’t the best way to differentiate yourself, unless you know you are the lowest-cost provider, and that “low cost” won’t be associated by your target audiences with being low quality)
    • quality & durability of work, services, or product (materials used, how long something will last/be valuable)
    • breadth of offerings (can your organization meet several needs or pain points of clients immediately, or if needed in the future?; do you offer one-stop shopping or connections to experts when needed?)
    • organization size (what does your size allow for — more personal attention, less overhead equating to lower cost, more services and diverse staff experience?)

Step Two: Evaluate Which of Your Broad Categories of Differentiation Matter to Your Target Audience(s)

Ask and be honest with yourself about the following:

  1. “Does/do my target audience(s) value what makes me different/is my differentiator important to a prospective customer?”
  2. “Does my differentiator speak to a particular pain point or several pain points that a prospective client is likely experiencing?”
  3. “Are you able to communicate your differentiator quickly/efficiently in a language your audiences will understand?”

At a minimum, you must be able to answer “yes” to #1 and #3 above if you plan to market your differentiator and have it resonate with target audiences, and ultimately support sales and lead generation.

Step Three: Build Out The Details of Your Differentiator

Hopefully, the above exercise landed you on one or two broad categories of differentiation that will be meaningful to prospective clients. Now, it’s time to build out the details. Let’s use size as an example. The “About” page of my site includes the following reference “Our small size means our Principal, Gail Snow Moraski, will be directly involved with your account, providing the experience and attention ALL clients deserve.” If your organization is a large shop, and you believe prospective clients will benefit from that, elaborate on why being large is beneficial. Your details around your large-size differentiator might reference the diverse, extensive experience of staff, the one-stop shopping you offer, the many, varied services you offer, or even the stability of your firm and the likelihood it will be around for a while.

Another differentiator example from our my own organization. Our tagline is “Maximizing Results Through Research-Supported Marketing.” I hope and believe that it expresses to prospective client audiences that I won’t encourage them to execute or continue any marketing activities that don’t generate leads or sales for them. And, that our tagline conveys that we are a data-driven, analytical shop. I consider my research and analysis skills a differentiator from some fellow marketing consultants who offer certain marketing & communications services, particularly writing- or creative-related ones, but don’t necessarily know how to determine in advance what marketing vehicles or activities (employing content or images/graphics they’ve created) should work as far as generating sales go, or how to go about analyzing what worked in the past. On the other hand, some marketing consultants have differentiators or skills that I don’t have, such as an artistic background/eye or experience creating and laying out sizable documents, such as annual reports.

In sum, the key to identifying and promoting your differentiator(s) is knowing which of your strengths a prospective customer will value most, and then, making it clear through understandable, concise statements what that differentiator is and how your target audiences will benefit.

We always welcome a good marketing brainstorm, so if your organization is struggling with determining your differentiators, which to promote, and how to effectively communicate them, we hope you’ll reach out.

 

 

 

brand promise, marketing consultant, Memorability, Passion, Strong Ad Creative, taglines, Uncategorized

Make Them Laugh

When I look back at TV commercials that have aired throughout my career that were among my favorites, I realize that most of them were funny. They stuck in my head and I didn’t mind seeing them repeatedly because they put a smile on my face. Colleagues who know me well know there’s nothing I love more than writing some fun, punchy copy.  Often, the cornier the better, because as I’ve blogged before, if advertising is entertaining, and therefore likely memorable, it should create increased brand awareness and likeability.

Maybe they drive some of you nuts, but I really enjoy a lot of the Geico ads in the “It’s What You Do” series, such as this one.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7D0FVpfU1g.  It’s fun and effective.

I also like Geico’s “Did You Know” series of ads, including this favorite.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kCysb4_-4jU.

Of course, depending on the nature of the product you are promoting and your brand promise, humorous advertising may not be appropriate.  But, when and where humor can be used, why not tickle your customers’ and prospective customers’ funny bones at the same time you provide information about your brand, product or service? Your customers and prospective customers are sure to appreciate and love you for it.

 

marketing consultant, Memorability, Passion, Strong Ad Creative, taglines, Uncategorized

And, They Told Two Friends, and So On and So On

Long before I knew I was going to devote my career to being a marketing and communications strategist, I was regularly exposed to a marketing campaign so impactful that I remember it and the product it promoted all these years later.  This was the ad for Faberge Organics hair products that used the tagline shown in my header.

I believe this tagline was effective in selling hair products because it was memorable (I talked about the importance of memorability in marketing campaigns in this 2014 post).  Also, what woman, regardless of her age, wouldn’t want to make the very small investment in a hair product that women find so effective, they are all talking about it!

But, the memorability and effectiveness of this campaign’s slogan is not the true purpose of my post.  The purpose of my post is to reinforce, as we all begin a new year, the importance of testimonials and word of mouth, in growing your business.  There’s no stronger and more cost-effective of a marketing tool than a job well done in the eye’s of a client or customer.  A happy and satisfied customer is more likely to proactively make referrals or agree, when asked, to make referrals to other potential clients on your behalf.

After almost nine months in business, I’ve found the best source of client work is former colleagues and co-workers who witnessed first-hand the quality of my work and work ethic, and referrals by these individuals to other individuals.  So, make sure that, regardless of the size or profitability associated with a particular customer project or service, you always put your best foot forward and bring your best work to any situation.  And, don’t hesitate to ask your clients who express great satisfaction with your work to make referrals on your behalf.  I think you’ll find, as I have, that a customer who is pleased with your work will always be glad to help you make connections.

 

brand promise, competitive advantage, differentiation, marketing consultant, Memorability, Passion, taglines

To Tag or Not to Tag?

Note: Since I wrote the piece below the video referenced has been removed from YouTube.

When creating new branding — whether it’s updating and refreshing an existing brand or a brand-new brand 🙂 — marketeers are always faced with the question that has plagued generations of marketing professionals:  whether or not to incorporate a tagline in an organization’s branding.

As with all life decisions and activities, there are pros and cons to incorporating a tagline. I have zero doubt that Nike would enjoy the strong reputation and revenues it has achieved without its “Just Do It” tagline. Who wouldn’t be inspired by or motivated to purchase a product associated with that message?  When I had to choose a company’s advertising to analyze in graduate school, I chose Nike because I found their messaging so likable and upbeat. How can you not like their ad messages and taglines that encourage everyone to be their best — regardless of their life status, their age, their gender, their athletic capabilities, or their love or skills for one sport over another?

I just listened to a video about why the ad agency that came up with Nike’s tagline — and yes, it’s so powerful and timeless  that it has now been in use for more than 25 years — and the gentleman who generated the phrase and proposed it for Nike’s advertising suggested it because he saw the power of it being able to unite a variety of proposed ads addressing diverse sports interests.  Nike is probably one of the best representatives  for a big “pro” of including taglines in branding.  A memorable and moving tagline can support interest in and pull together diverse program and product lines and provoke immediate recognition of  and positive emotion toward an advertiser.

On the “con” sign, the biggest challenge with a tagline, particularly if it’s part of a logo and/or associated with your larger corporate brand/identity versus an individual program or product is that it can weigh you down sometimes if it’s too limiting and really doesn’t apply to all your programs or services, if it doesn’t make sense to your target audience, or if target audiences simply don’t like or agree with it.  I think we’ve all read some taglines and said “what?” to ourselves. Those responsible for creating taglines need to be sure to think objectively and even consider testing their proposed tagline on their target audience to ensure effectiveness and appropriateness.

And, that leads me to Results’ tagline.  You’ll see I haven’t incorporated it officially into my branding or logo. As a new business, I’m still getting the “bugs” out of mine, and it varies slightly when I need to give my elevator pitch unexpectedly.  But, it goes something like this — “maximizing results through research-supported marketing activities”.  Yeah, it’s long, but I do believe it’s truly reflects Results’ philosophy that research should be conducted and/or considered before marketing implementing activities, and without a doubt, conducted during and after the activity is occurring. Learn more here.

You’ll see I love Jimmy Dean’s “Shine On” tagline and have included that in my “About Us” message because I find that tagline to be inspirational and believe others to do.

Not so much for a marketing decision or education purpose, but more just to inspire yourself today and in future days to step outside your comfort zone, take a few minutes to watch this Nike ad video.  Just Do It.