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.

 

 

 

marketing consultant, Memorability, staying current, Target Marketing

Memorability and Target Marketing 1.2

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

I’ve been posting a lot recently about both the value of creating memorability and of knowing how to reach and speak to your target audience — two key principles that are ageless and will always be critical to the success of any advertising campaigns, regardless of their objectives.

Dos Equis has succeeded in implementing both these principles in its “The Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign. The beer giant understands that much of today’s  buying power resides within the “Baby Boomers” group — and its “Most Interesting Man” campaign speaks to both women and men of that generation — women who’d like to meet the “most interesting man” and men who would like to be him.

You know a campaign is memorable when others spoof and/or want to capitalize on it as YouTube has done with its subscription campaign mirroring “The Most Interesting Man” campaign. Enjoy “The Most Interesting Puppet in the World”, if you haven’t already seen it, and “Stay Thirsty, My Friends”.

 

marketing consultant, Memorability, staying current, Strong Ad Creative, Target Marketing

It’s All in the “Framily”

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

I’ve posted about this on my Facebook page before.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I actually really enjoy the Sprint framily ads and the very diverse and interesting group that makes up the Frobinson family. Maybe it’s because I was a French major undergraduate and I love to hear the angelic daughter speak French while bluebirds swarm around her head, or I love to hear the Gordon character correct the other framily members that his name is pronounced “Gordin”, but the ads don’t become old or tiresome to me no matter how many times I see them.  I also enjoy it whenever a new ad is added to the campaign because I enjoy seeing what trouble or mischief the family is up to.

I did some research on the history and thinking behind the campaign, and learned that Sprint launched the campaign because its overseas parent company had had great success with a similar campaign in their neck of the woods.  A big danger with very creative ad campaigns is that viewers can get so caught up in the creative message or visual that they don’t even know what brand, product, or service the ad is promoting, but I don’t think this is a concern for the framily ads. The unique and very different framily members reinforce Sprint’s message that a framily doesn’t have to be a homogeneous group of individuals because 1) a framily group can consist of both friends and family and 2) the average American family is now more than ever likely to be culturally and ethnicity diverse for a variety of reasons, including the fact that there are now so many “combined” families. The ads speak to almost everyone, and therefore, should have an impact on a larger target audience.

I believe the ads are very memorable, effective, and will and do cause sales growth for Sprint.  A large organization like Sprint is sure to have lots of in-house and out-of-house marketing gurus monitoring these campaigns and if they weren’t effective, they wouldn’t continue to run them or add new ads (creative) to the campaign mix.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the ads.

competitive advantage, differentiation, marketing consultant

Why It Literally Pays To Be Different

I recently consulted with a small business that was having difficulty maintaining a steady stream of customers and revenues.  There is a very crowded marketplace for this business’ services, i.e., many other businesses offer very similar services in the same geography and some are franchises of much larger chains, and therefore, likely have access to marketing activities available through their central organization/office.

After assessing this small business’ competition — something I do as part of my standard pre-work for a conversation with any organization looking for assistance with their marketing — I pointed out to this small business owner that, if they had any chance of succeeding at all in their over-crowded marketplace, they would really need to identify what differentiates them from their competitors, particularly since they did not want their differentiator to be lower/better pricing than their competitors. Then, they would need to market and create awareness of that difference.

A caution and a challenge regarding identifying and promoting your difference from competitors — your differentiating attributes must be something your target audience values, and if you’re the high-cost provider of a product and service, then, in addition, your target audience has to value those attributes significantly enough to be willing to pay extra for those services.

I attended a Webinar this week on how to grow a successful consulting practice. While as a marketing professional, I have spent countless hours trying to identify, and then figure out how to promote, program/product/service differences for a variety of organizations in a variety of industries, the Webinar was a good reinforcement that as a consultant I need to heed the same advice I give my clients. I’ve got to offer something unique and different from all the other management consultants out there.  Fortunately, I launched my business with that awareness and understanding. You can learn more about why I view my organization to be different from my competitors by reading Results’ first newsletter.

My husband and I are big fans of Ray Davies of Kinks’ fame and of his song “I’m Not Like Everybody Else“. There are many benefits to not being like everybody else, and for a small business owner they can be huge financial ones, as long as not being like everybody else and the reasons for it, are favorably viewed by your target audience.