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There's a little silent refrain that goes on in people's minds whenever you bring up differentiation. I think that for many business owners, its almost an excuse. "It's different in my industry; it's hyper-competitive and it's such a mature industry, it's a waste of time pursuing differentiation".
I want to introduce you to a concept I call the 4P framework, and it's very simple.
This framework is made up of 4 elements:
The 1st P, People, represents the customer profile, the target market segment that you choose to do business with. It's the first element in your overall differentiation.
The 2nd P represents Problem. What problem of the people you chose will you be solving? So let's say that you and I both decided on starting a new business working with dentists. That means that the people, our P would be Dentists...for both of us.
But if I'm a business growth consulting firm, and you're a dental office design firm, then we're solving 2 different problems for the same people. Now even though we're serving the same market, we'd be complementary businesses rather than competitors.
Now since we're talking about differentiation, this example is probably a little too easy so let's step it up a bit.
What if you and I were both business growth consulting firms and we were both targeting Dentists? Here's where the 3rd P would come in as a differentiating element.
The 3rd P represents Process - And by process I mean your unique process or approach to solving your target customer's problem or delivering your ultimate benefit. If business growth is our ultimate benefit, your primary lever or tool might be strategic marketing and mine might be business networking.
To explore just how much power of differentiation you get by layering the 3 Ps, let's look at a different target market.
Let's say our 1st P was mid-sized networking technology companies and you and I were concerned with their business development and growth needs.
My unique process might be to show these mid-sized networking technology companies how to leverage internet marketing in their business-to-business marketing, while you may concentrate on how they can grow their business through improved performance from their sales force. So while I would be offering comprehensive internet marketing consulting, you might be offering sales training or sales management consulting programs.
This differentiation by offering a different process or solution has so many different variables that you should never seriously run out of options for differentiating your business. Even if you and I were decided to compete in the Sales training niche, I might differentiate myself by highlighting a branded and proprietary teaching system, learning method, or what have you, or I might differentiate myself by the medium of delivery - maybe all our training is done online through multimedia webinars and Teleseminars, while you go the traditional route with on-site training.
These are just a very few of the ways you can differentiate through method focus, delivery method, areas of emphasis, etcetera
Let's go on to the 4th P which is Passion.
Passion here is the ultimate icing on the cake when it comes to differentiating your business. Passion has to do with the unique way in which your business injects emotional selling into your branding and marketing communications. Years ago, the Government Employees Insurance Company had a brand profile that was as boring as it gets.
Today, GEICO is recognized for the Geico Gecko's continuous insistence that 15 minutes can save us 15% or more on car insurance, and for their highly entertaining campaign that repeats that switching to GEICO is so easy a caveman can do it.
Passion is where so many small businesses make a mistake and turn their natural advantage into a distinct disadvantage. So many small business owners are mistakenly led to believe that branding means a lack of personality, and a transition to slick but faceless marketing that marks so much "Big business advertising".
Countless research studies have shown that people make their buying decisions based on emotion, and then supports that decision by logical arguments. Some of the simplest ways to inject emotional selling into your marketing communication is to articulate a core emotional epic (story). Mary Kay built a half-billion dollar business on the back of her touching story of being a divorced and widowed woman, struggling to make it in business at a time when women were barely allowed in the workplace.
Another way to differentiate yourself with emotional selling is to personalize your marketing. Put some kind of human face on your company. Even a company as large as Southwest has been able to stay personal. Recently, they launched a "Bags fly free" TV campaign that made lovable heroes out of their grounds crew and bag handlers. If it's good enough for Southwest, why isn't it good enough for you?
One last note on emotional selling is that it should still answer "What's in it for me?" for the clients. Note in the earlier GEICO example that the underlying promise is still - Convenience, savings, and easy!!
Note that the Southwest commercials were still highlighting the convenience and savings of having "bags fly free".
If you study these 4 elements - People, Problem, Process and Passion, you'll find multiple points of potential differentiation for virtually any business activity you want to undertake. Whether you're starting a new business, contemplating a change in business strategy, or rolling out a new product or service.
Review this lesson, apply these insights to your business, then go out there and stand out from the crowd.
Gogo Erekosima, is the Lead strategist at Idea Age Consulting - a provider of unique hidden marketing assets consulting, and marketing services that help solo, small and mid-sized businesses nationwide to grow using assets already hidden within the business.