How do you differentiate your products or services in a crowded market?
In marketing-speak a market differentiator (also called product differentiator) is the identification and description of the differences of your product/service from the other products/services in the same market. In other words, what makes your stuff different?
A struggle we all face as entrepreneurs and business owners is: how do we differentiate our products and services when they aren’t actually different? Chances are that your product or service is offered by someone else somewhere in all the world. Most of us deal with several competitors just in our own geographic region! If you happen to be first to market with a brand new product, you won’t be the only one there for long. Unfortunately, none of us have the luxury of owning an iron-clad patent that blocks anyone else in the whole world from stealing our ideas. It doesn’t exist.
So we’re left to compete. We’re left to somehow make ourselves stand out more than the other guys.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that everyone is inherently unique. It just takes some hard work to identify your differentiators and then articulate those differences to your market.
Things that DO NOT Make You Different
There’s a few misunderstandings about what makes a product or service different. These are NOT good differentiators:
- Price point – You’re price might be different than others but that doesn’t make your product different. It just makes it cheap or expensive. Neither of those words are effective in describing your product/service.
- Product/Service – Coke or Pepsi? Yes, they might taste slightly different. But they are essentially the same product. Your core product is not different. Sorry, that’s just the truth.
- Slogan, Brand Name, and/or Packaging Design – Design services are useful but they do not create market differentiators. You might look different, but it won’t create a difference in your product/service.
- Over-Used Adjectives – Are you “reliable,” “effective,” “honest,” “fast,” ethical,” etc…? Those are all junk words. They’re useless. Everybody uses them. Thus, it doesn’t make you different.
I want to quickly clarify about the branding and design comment above. I’m not saying design is worthless. In fact, branding and design is incredibly valuable in its own right. Let’s just get the order of things straight: branding (in the design sense) helps people identify you once they already understand your differences. Meaning, you’ve already established your value, uniqueness, and importance to someone by the time design/brand comes into play. Branding is important to maintain your reputation in an individuals mind after it has been established.
Things that DO Make You Different
Bottom line is that, even if there are thousands of similar products or services, you are still unique. Nobody else has the same personality, team, or experiences as you.
Here’s a few ideas on how to articulate your differences to the market:
- Tell your story – There is great power in a story that shares what made you who you are. As a company or as an individual.
- Explain your process – Do you have a unique process? Do you do something beyond just providing a product? These are value-added items. This is the easiest thing to make up if you don’t do it already. Try to focus on a unique value-added customer experience.
- Express your values – Similar to telling stories, you can express what you value in life. Tell people about your passion and what motivates you.
A word of caution: a differentiator is still worthless if you do not also properly explain the benefit to your potential buyer. There is a fine line between telling a story all about you, and outwardly expressing the benefit of that story to your customer. You have to find it because the moment you start talking all about yourself, you’ve lost your customer. The biggest question on their mind is “What’s in it for me?” Don’t miss out on answering that question quickly!
It’s for this exact reason that I left “features” off of the list. A feature can actually be a differentiator assuming it’s unique to you. The problem with features, is that you’ll often spend far too much time explaining the feature instead of the benefit of the feature. I’ve written about this before in Why Aren’t I Getting More Sales?
Standing Out in a Crowded Marketplace
On the surface, differentiators are not that complex. However, as you attempt to create some differentiators in your own business, it can get quite difficult. Strong market differentiators take a lot of time and thought to perfect. Not too mention finding a way to articulate your difference succinctly.
Often it helps to explore your differentiators with someone else. You should give devEdge Internet Marketing a call (250-516-4327) if you’d like some consultation on this matter.
Do you have any examples of a good market differentiator? Have you found other things that help you differentiate in the crowded marketplace? Please let us know your thoughts and share your experiences with us. Leave your comments below.