Do your customers know what makes you different from all of your competitors? Do you know what it is?
In my experience with different clients, I have always been surprised to see the extent to which differentiators are either underutilised or ignored by small to medium businesses. A differentiator (often called a USP/Unique Selling Proposition) is what makes you stand out in evermore crowded and saturated markets. In this article I’d like to offer you some thoughts on why you need to use a differentiator and how to apply one to your business.
What is a Differentiator and Why Does Every SME Need One?
A differentiator is what sets your business apart from the others; it informs customers why they should choose your services instead of the competition’s. This goes far beyond a strapline or catchy slogan, this is a message which when established can be proliferated throughout your various marketing channels, building recognition and trust amongst your target market.
Modern-day customers are increasingly aware of the options that a saturated market offers; therefore they are far more likely to ‘shop around’, so to speak. This means that customer loyalty stands for little these days, which facilitates a further necessity to impress the uniqueness of your competitive advantages on your customers. This ensures they won’t go looking elsewhere, or believe they can always find it cheaper elsewhere.
Though larger companies still utilise and need a differentiator, they are far more essential to SMEs like yours. When you build your business you need to have an edge on your competition. By the time companies become much larger, “household” names, it is less important as they are well-known and visited – but as has become clearer recently, what became of House of Fraser’s, Debenhams’ or Top Shop’s differentiators? As so few businesses create, capitalise, maintain and develop their differentiators, many consumers, rightly or wrongly, think that all businesses within industries are the same. Prove them wrong and be the exception, stand out and be recognised. A differentiator is not what you do; it’s what you can do for your customers, and more specifically, why only you can do that for them!
There are many great examples of differentiators, whether in the take-away food sector (think Domino’s pizza offer for students, not the best tasting pizza, but available red-hot and quickly); the courier business - FedEx with its guaranteed overnight delivery. On the other hand, John Lewis’, “never knowingly undersold” was a great differentiator because it came with great customer service. Is it still an asset, as it has been forced to hold “brand matching events” most weeks because of competitor actions?
I encourage to work creatively and authentically to determine exactly what your company can offer your potential clients. This is also a prime example of the importance of understanding your target market in order to establish a differentiator which will resonate with them; you cannot create a differentiator if you have not developed your Target Market (see previous article).
Creating a Differentiator
This process is not simply about being different from the competition; it’s about being different from the competition whilst also providing something of great benefit to your target market (by the way, price can never be a successful differentiator!)
Through my years and experience working with companies from start-ups to international powerhouses like Ford Motor Company, I use a fool-proof formula for creating and marketing differentiators:
(U + C + CC) = D
(Uniqueness + Create + Craft and Communicate) = Differentiator
If you would like to find out more about this proven formula and how to create and cultivate your own differentiator, then we have just what you need. A differentiator is one of 9 Core Elements, which are highlighted and thoroughly explained in our Business Growth Club. To find out more, click here.