Vive la Différence! Putting the spotlight on your brand’s points of difference


In the battle for consumers’ attention, there’s a tendency to try to be all things to all people instead of focusing on the unique features that separate you from the crowd. Consumers may be interested in claims of better services and products, but what’s even more important to them is: what do you offer that the competition doesn’t?

Several years ago, we were having trouble finding a reliable, cost-effective source to handle the printing and micro folding of tiny packaging inserts for a client. Sure, we knew many quality printers, but none that could do miniscule folding in house, and the job was too big to risk using someone we didn’t know and completely trust.

We mentioned our situation to a sales rep for one of our long-time printers and, lo and behold, she said that she could handle the entire job. Her company ended up printing and micro folding the inserts for us, and the quality and price were so good that we continued to use and recommend their services.

So, why didn’t we already know that this printer did their own micro folding? Simple… they didn’t mention in it on their website or anywhere else! Why? Apparently, they had acquired the folding equipment and know-how after revamping their website and marketing collateral and just never got around to updating them with this information.

This story illustrates how important it is to consistently review your points of difference and make sure that they are clearly communicated to consumers. Soon after completing our job, the printer updated their website and marketing materials to prominently feature micro folding. But by then, they had most likely already missed out on countless opportunities from the pharmaceutical industry and others requiring this special service.

How can you be sure you are not overlooking a service or feature that differentiates your brand from the competition? The first step is an internal review with your entire team where you make a list of all your points of parity and difference, making sure to highlight any new ones you may have recently added.

Your customers can also help you identify your unique offerings.  In a previous blog posting Responding to Your Customers, we discussed the importance of listening to your customers on social media. It’s also a great way to learn what they find to be special or superior about your products or services.

Customers aren’t shy about letting you know what they do (and don’t) like, and they just might lead you to points of difference you never realized you had. Sometimes you learn that what’s most important to them is something you didn’t expect.

If your company is not very well known, you will probably want to communicate all your points of parity as well as your points of difference. However, those with a more established reputation may choose to focus almost exclusively on the distinctive qualities that set them apart from the competition.

A few of the most popular unique selling propositions include Domino’s Pizza’s promise of “fresh hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less – or it’s free,” TOMS shoes’ commitment to give a pair of shoes to a child in need for every pair of TOMS purchased, and, of course, M & Ms claim that they “melt in your mouth not in your hands.”

However you don’t need to be a large company or famous brand to benefit from a killer proposition that attracts more business. Recently a nearby diner placed an ad on a roadside billboard that provides an excellent example of identifying and putting the spotlight on a unique selling proposition.

This restaurant already has a strong local reputation for the quality of their food and huge serving sizes, and most people in the area regularly drive by their sign announcing these two not particularly unique features. So what did they put on the ad? An image of a craft-style cocktail in a mason jar and a short text referring to happy hour.

The ad is noteworthy for clearly presenting an appealing point of difference in a simple, direct manner. It says to the consumer: Sure there are many restaurants in the area offering big servings of tasty comfort food but only one also has a hip bar where you can hang out and order special drinks. And, by extension, it makes the diner seem cooler and more modern than the competition.

Does it feel like you and your competition are communicating pretty much the same messages to consumers? Tired of simply repeating how much better you are? If so it’s time to step back and take stock of what makes your product or services unique.

With the input of both your team and your customers, there’s a good chance you’ll rediscover at least one point of difference and maybe even find a new one. When you do, make sure you communicate it clearly and repeatedly!

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