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Blog post by Deb Dietz
Let’s face it – you’re surrounded by competition. But how you stand out – how you differentiate yourself - is critically important.
Ask yourself this, “what does our company do that makes us stand out from other similar competitors in the marketplace”? If you can’t clearly articulate that difference, consider developing a differentiating strategy that your potential customers will find valuable.
I’ll use my own company, SMB Value Partners, Inc. for an example. Up until recently we were “all things to all people” – we do full service consulting, we do on-line business education, we source tangible products. Our company name is SMB (small to mid-sized businesses), but we work with larger corporations too. We have expertise in Marketing. We have expertise in IT. We have expertise in Strategic Planning. We have expertise in Operations. “We can do it all – for any one”. So, here we are thinking we can be all things to all people, but all that did was confuse our value. Confuse our marketing, confuse our messaging. And, confuse our potential customers.
So, we sat down and thought about what we could do to leverage our thought leadership in another way, one that differentiated ourselves, that wasn’t confusing, where we could leverage our expertise. So we made the decision that in order to truly differentiate ourselves, we were going to change our business model. THAT would be our go-forward strategy.
That clarity has taken us a very long time to get to. Our consulting services business model was not differentiated. Do you know how many marketing consultants are out there? How many business planning consultants are out there? How many IT consultants are out there? Exactly. Now add the on-line education format to that…..how many webinars, on-line learning platforms, free trainings are out there? And now we’re also sourcing tangible products. How does that fit our ‘professional services’ model? It doesn’t. We were living in the reality of ‘chasing the shiny penny’, losing our core identity and brand promise.
There are many ways you can differentiate yourself. You can specialize in an industry, offer a particular service, offer a unique process, focus on a specific target audience, specialize in serving customers of a certain size, focus on solving a specific business challenge, offer a unique business model…..there’s a long list. But for us, we didn’t reinvent the “what”, or the “why” – we reinvented the “how”. In our case, by taking what we know – our thought leadership in different disciplines – and we’re making it experiential and available in a different format. We reinvented the “how”.
Take a look at your brand identity – how you are relevant to your customers, how you are authentic and true to your customers (and, are you able to prove it?). Find where you are differentiated, and if you can’t quite articulate it, do some homework and find how to build a sustainable differentiation strategy that makes your expertise highly visible to your target audience. One that sets you apart. One that is sustainable.
Sometimes it’s not what you’re doing, or who you’re doing it for. Maybe, like us, it’s in the “how”.