The range of products for sale these days is almost overwhelming. A quick scan of Amazon gives you a sense of just how many choices are out there. As a consumer, it can be great to have so many options, but as a manufacturer, it can be a significant challenge to succeed in a global marketplace. One of the truths in our 12 truths in business provides insight for those competing for consumer attention: As you amplify the differentiation of your brand, product, service or technology, you intensify the engagement of your channel and customers. Differentiation should be an ongoing journey for any company that wants to remain relevant and successful.
Differentiation is never done. Beyond the initial discovery of what truly makes a brand different, it is important to continue re-differentiating as new competitors arise and consumer demands change. The good news is there is more than one way to ensure a product or brand stands out and captures the attention of customers and sales channels.
Differentiation on many fronts. Differentiation can happen in many areas, from product features to a company’s sustainability efforts or charitable activities. Having multiple points of differentiation is much stronger than competing on price alone. Another company can always come along and sell their products cheaper.
Differentiate visually. Perhaps the most obvious way to differentiate is visually. For brands that sit on shelves with other similar products, visual branding is critical. Visual identities can be defined using logos, colors, fonts, imagery and creative design. Visual differentiation influences how your audience perceives your brand or product. It can evoke emotion and begin to tell a story that separates you from the competition.
Differentiate through the experience. Brands like Ritz-Carlton, Trader Joe’s and Amazon continue to differentiate themselves through the experience they provide customers. This is one of the most important ways to stand apart from the competition. Customers are more likely to remember and be loyal to brands that provide the best experiences, even if their products or services cost more. Providing quick responses to questions and issues, streamlining the purchase and return process, and taking actions that delight customers are all ways top brands have delivered experiences that differentiate and earn them accolades.
Differentiate through quality. Equal to or even more important than differentiating through the customer experience is differentiating through quality. We have all had experiences with products that broke or didn’t work the way they were advertised. Most of us wouldn’t purchase a product like that again. We would turn to a competitor. But when we find a product with great quality, that product is differentiated in our minds. We will pay more for a well-made product and recommend it to friends. It’s the one we choose over the competition time and again.
Differentiate through processes. Differentiation can also be found in the way you do something. Maybe it’s an extra quality-assurance step that’s taken in the manufacturing of a product. It could be a unique process that streamlines the purchase experience. Or maybe something that’s done after the sale of a product or service to ensure a positive ownership experience.
Differentiate through your team. Having the right people on your team is a powerful differentiator. Sales teams that are on the front lines with customers can be instrumental in differentiating a product or service. Their knowledge, support and the value they bring help companies stand out from the rest.
Discovering your differentiators and making sure they’re communicated is essential in today’s highly competitive world. The most successful companies continue to amplify their differentiation in new ways. The result is engaged customers and sales networks that remain loyal advocates of your brand, products and services.
BARRY LABOV, a two-time Ernst & Young entrepreneur of the year and inductee into the Entrepreneur Hall of Fame, is founder, president and CEO of LABOV Marketing Communications and Training in Fort Wayne. He has written and co-authored more than a dozen business books and is a regular columnist in business publications.