The more mature a company is, the harder it becomes to differentiate sufficiently in the marketplace. Complacency can set in, it can be tough to change course in time or to recognize when competitors are actually chipping away at the foundations until its too late.
Sometimes, the “easiest” response is to drop prices. By the time this happens, your company is well on the way to becoming a commodity – unrecognizable from competitors, no higher perceived value and an uphill battle to regain the status of “preference”. Once a commodity, products and services can compete on price alone. A lower priced competitor can be all that it takes to lose the sale. Every sale.
“Successful brands start to fade when they lose clear points of differentiation. Absent differentiation, the core of any brand and its associated business — a loyal customer base — cannot be created or sustained.”
Enter the “Branded Differentiator.” A differentiator is a unique feature and/or benefit of a product, or aspects of a brand, that set it apart from competing products or brands. A Branded Differentiator is something that your company owns, names and manages as a key difference in the marketplace. A differentiator must be something that your customers care enough about that they will select you. It must be manageable by your internal structure, it must be worth investing in and it must truly be a differentiating factor from competitors. Even better if it’s truly unique.
A differentiator can be an Ingredient, like Intel inside a Dell computer or Gore-Tex in a North Face coat, a Program/Process, a Feature or a Service.
How many differentiators should your company have? It depends on how many audiences profiles you have. My recommendation is that 2-4 strong branded differentiators are all that you need or that your customers can remember.
Differentiators can include your Heritage, whether you are First at something, whether you have a Unique Story that you can tell, a Guarantee that you offer or any of the 50 differentiators listed in this great article.
Differentiation should take place as early as possible in the life of a business and constantly re-evaluated for relevance and uniqueness. It’s more lucrative than dropping prices.
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