You want your company to stand out. To be unique. To catch the consumer’s eye in the marketplace. For that reason, it is critical for your leadership team to have absolute clarity on the qualities of your company that differentiate you in the marketplace.
Notice that we said “qualities,” not “quality.” While single differentiators certainly exist – such as a truly one-of-a-kind product, service, feature, or benefit – most companies differentiate themselves based upon a combination of factors that act together to encourage a customer to buy. The question then becomes, “What is in your company’s differentiation basket?”
When we raise this question with leadership teams, the initial responses often include some “plain vanilla” qualities, such as great products, great people, or great customer service. These are “plain vanilla” not because they aren’t important, but because the competition may be able to say the same thing. In other words, there’s no differentiation there.
How do you discover what truly differentiates you from your competitors? One of the best ways is also the simplest: ask your customers why they buy from you. Break it down into two questions:
- Why did you originally buy from our company?
- Why do you continue to buy from our company?
If you ask your best customers these questions, you will get truly valuable insights. Their reasons for buying may match the differentiators you identified internally, but will often include other factors or prioritize certain points in ways that can be quite enlightening for your leadership team.
For example, one of our client companies developed an initial list of differentiators, then “pressure tested” that list with their top customers. The customers agreed that the items on the list were important, but the number one reason they bought was something that was completely missing from the list. They said, “The real reason we began buying from you and continue to buy from you is that you listen better than your competitors do. We told you what we really wanted in a solution. You actually listened and helped us find the right combination of products from your company to meet our needs – you even modified some of your products in response to our needs. So, while there’s no question that you have great products and all the rest of it, the truth is that we work with you is because you listen so well and respond in a way that makes it clear that you’re interested in meeting our needs.”
Without these customer conversations, the leadership team would not have understood how great an asset it was that they were great at listening to customer needs. That insight resulted in the company changing what they emphasized during sales conversations. Adding this quality to their differentiation basket helped potential customers recognize their value and boosted conversions.
As you identify what is in your company’s differentiation basket, be sure to ask your customers for their input. You may not recognize some of your own strengths – strengths that can transform how you market your business and keep your customers coming back for more.