Another area that business people struggle with is individuation, differentiation, or explaining why your customers should buy from you and not your competitors. This is a question that I always ask at networking event and at least 90% of the people I ask don’t provide any useful information that tells me why should buy from them specifically. In fact most people say some form of the exact same thing!
One consulting firm asked the top insurance companies in the U.S. what makes them different from their competitors. Every single one said we are different because…
4.Had highly trained staff,
5.Were well established
6.Were committed to quality
Chances are that when people ask why you are different you will say something very similar to what your competitors say. That is a problem if you want to stand out.
So what do you do about that? Remember that Bernard Shaw quote from my last email about how to get people to care about your message? (here is the link in case you missed it.) It is time for a little more thinking and we are going to use the Ladder of Abstraction to make it easier. I will also share with you some of the questions I ask my clients to help them understand what makes them different.
At the top of the ladder is abstract and at the bottom is specific or concrete.
You need to move down the ladder of abstraction to create some specific concrete examples of why you are different. Here is an example from a software company I worked with. When we explored what they had been saying about their software they would say that their software is Full Featured and Highly Functional and that they are responsive to their customers. That sounds good but is also something that all of their competition says as well.
Now, saying they have a good product is very abstract. So saying their product is fully featured begins to climb down the ladder but it doesn’t individuate the product. In the process of working together it came out that they have improved the code on their software… 1,898 times!
So one of the individuation statements that we came up with was:
This one specific statement accomplishes many things.
A – It shows that the company is responsive to customer feedback,
B – It shows that it has been around for a long time and,
C – It intimates that their product is very user friendly and full featured.
When I work with clients I aim to create 12-15 concrete statements that individuate their business. The most important reason for this is to provide you with options for converting prospects to clients because what is important to one person, may be irrelevant to another.
“What” is the most difficult way to individuate unless you have a brand new product. Most business have a direct competitor who does pretty much the exact same “what”.“How” is the easiest way to individuate and “Why” is often the most overlooked way to Individuate.
If there is a what that your customers care about that is different than your competitors make sure that you tell your target about that. It may be your most important way to to stand out. For example, when I first started talking about this,
Square had just burst on the scene. Being able to accept credit cards on your mobile device was a very significant “What”. It is their main competitive advantage right now but as more competition starts to enter the marketplace, they will have to find other ways to explain why customers should choose them over their competitors.
If you are very clear “why” you are doing your business beyond simply meeting the needs of your customers then this is a great way to create raving fans. I recommend the TEDx Talk by Simon Sinek if you want more information about how to do this. However, If you are not ALREADY CLEAR, I do not recommend that you start with why. Defining your why can be a difficult and esoteric exercise to and so, in my opinion it is not the most effective place to start. By all means, continue to ask that question until you have an answer to the question. It will also have the secondary effect of increasing your happiness and making you more fulfilled in my work.
I recommend that you start with “How” you do what you do. All of this work on how is so that when you are having a conversation with a prospect you can highlight your strengths vs your competitions weaknesses.
Never put down your competition! It makes you look petty and does not endear your prospects to you. Most business owners develop personal relationships with their suppliers over time. If you start putting down the competition, you could be putting down a friend of the person you are trying to get business from. That does not make them want to hire you, that makes them want to defend their friend and their choice to buy from them. Yet, there is a way to talk about how you can show your strengths vs the competitions weaknesses without ever saying anything bad about them and it is one of my favorite sales techniques. I will share that technique with you at the end of this email.
Some of these questions may not apply to your business. The point is to think about how you deliver your product or service different from your competition. For example, let’s say you are a financial planner. Most financial planners rarely visit or call their clients once they have their money invested. i.e. they never see their rep.
If you called your clients twice a year to go through their portfolio and make sure it still met their current needs that would be a way for you individuate yourself and show a specific reason why a prospect should choose you instead of your competition.
I recommend that you give some thought to creating some specific service advantages, but if you haven’t there is still one thing that you have going for you.
The thing that you have going for you is… YOU. Each of us is unique and so that means that no matter how long you have been in the business, no matter if you have not developed ANY service advantages you still have your own unique way of doing things. A unique set of talents that is displayed, whether conscious or not. Many people believe that there is a certain type of person that is more successful than another but research tells a different tale. For example, Gallup understook a study of over 2 million managers to try and determine what set of talents or strengths created the best managers. What they found surprised them. They found that there wasn’t a specific set of strengths that made a great manager. What they found was that the highest performing managers simply capitalized on the things they were best at. If a manager was a great communicator but lousy at organization, he would be way more successful if he focused on being an even better communicator and used that talent to facilitate success. Conversely if a manager was super organized but not a great communicator, he would be way more likely to produce top results by focusing on his organizational skills. Moreover, sometimes our strengths are hidden from us. It is amazing how easy it is for us to ignore ourselves when it comes to a service advantage.
For example; You may be incredibly stubborn and so simply don’t take no for an answer. On the surface that may not seem like a strength but let’s look closer. What if your a financial planner but you are also very stubborn. You could turn that into a unique selling point. Something like.
If you want to learn more about what your strengths are I happen to like Strengths Finder 2.0.
No matter who you are, there is a tribe out there who can relate to you. Take some time and write out what makes you different. If you do, you will be able to easily answer the question:
Here is how our financial planner might do it. The trick is to ask the question as if the competition is already doing it, like you are doing some market research. Develop a question for each of your 12 specific examples of why your different. You may have to ask a few questions before you find your prospects pain, but when you do the energy of your conversation will drastically change.
If his current financial planner is not doing that, then you have given your prospect a specific and concrete reason to choose you instead especially if that is something he values. If the competition is already doing that you will have another question ready maybe
Once you have uncovered 3 or 4 pain points, some he didn’t even know he had, your prospect will be way more likely to convert to becoming your customer.
Now I have given you an exact formula for grabbing the attention of your target market and in this email how to individuate your business so that prospects want to buy from you and not your competition. If you do this work and implement it into your marketing it will have a big impact on your bottom line. I love doing this work for my clients. If you want more business growth information join my newsletter or come to a free webinar.