Just How Different Are You?


By Cidnee Stephen
Just How Different Are You
The other night, I was out at my favorite Sushi restaurant. We go there quite regularly because both my son and I are in love with their rolls, especially their Signature Dynamite Roll.

Being the marketer I am, I couldn’t help but notice as the little boats floated around with various dishes, that others must share our passion. The boats were full of our favorite rolls.

Yet oddly enough, the sign outside, promoted their excellent service. Now don’t get me wrong, their service is second to none! But the problem with boasting quality and service is that these are EXPECTATIONS, not DIFFERENTIATIONS.

It is VITAL as a small business you find a way to differentiate yourself from the competition.  If you don’t, you quickly become a bit of a commodity, which allows your customer to go to price.  

Let me explain.  Awhile back I was shopping around looking for a housekeeping service.  So I began listing the attributes important to me in such a service and out came the boxes.  In the first box or column was whether the cleaners were bonded, secondly I wanted to know how many were in a team, thirdly was how long they thought it would take and then finally came the price.  As I called around I began getting very similar answers to the first three questions so began comparing to price.

About my fifth call, something very unique happened.  As I was rattling off my criteria, the representative asked if she first explain their process before she answered my questions.  Of course, I was intrigued.  She began outlining EXACTLY what their cleaners do EVERYTIME they visit a home.  She started wooing me with dusting my doorframes, and perimeter cleaning all the rooms.  As she carried on I fell in love and price was NO LONGER an issue.

What she had done so effectively was pull me “out of my boxes” and began outlining what they saw themselves as their key difference.  

So how do you effectively pull your prospects out of the box? In other words, how do you define what makes you TRULY different.  Having done many surveys for my clients asking their customers this very pointed questions, I can tell you this. 9 times out of 10 it is in the little things.  

Ask Your Clients
No one can articulate your strengths better than your clients. So ask them (about 5 – 10 of your ideal clients).  Ask them why they chose you in the first place. Ask them why they continue to do business with you. Ask them how they would explain why you’re great to others. Ask them outright; what they think makes you unique in the marketplace.  The scariest thing we can do is assume we know what makes us special.

Identify Industry Frustrations
Here’s an eye-opener and a very humbling experience. Ask people (and your clients) what frustrates them about people in your industry. If they remain incredibly polite, then take yourself out of the equation and ask them what frustrates them about your competitors. If you are great at probing and uncovering the root of an issue, you will find ways to turn this frustration into a strong differentiation.

A lawyer for a large company here in Calgary asked his clients why they enjoyed doing business with him. He heard over and over again, that they felt he kept them in the loop.

Interestingly enough, one of the major frustrations this client had with other lawyers in general, is this feeling that they were keeping them a bit in the dark. Now this may have come out in various ways like, “I don’t trust them,” or “their service is poor.” It takes further questioning and probing to uncover the root of the distrust and poor service to realize it’s a communication issue. This lawyer had identified a “little thing” that made him VERY different in the eyes of his potential clients.

Survey Your Competitors
Finally, shop around with your competitors.  Pretend you are your ideal client and that you are looking for their product or service.   Ask them some typical questions that your clients would have in their “boxes” and then just before you finish, ask them these questions:

    Why should I choose your company over a competitor?
    What is your company’s unique strength in the marketplace?

Here is the good news.  You will find most of your customers DON’T differentiate themselves!  So go forth and discover what makes you TRULY different. It is one of the least expensive ways to gain an edge on your competitors and strengthen your position in the marketplace.

Printed with permission of Cidnee Stephen of Strategies for Success
www.strategiesforsuccess.ca
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