To differentiate, don't make these 7 mistakes

Most companies make the same mistakes when trying to differentiate their brand, products and services:

  1. They look inward, not outward – Differentiation isn’t about “making up” your company’s difference, it’s finding what objectively, authentically sets it apart. Understanding what customers / consumers need and discovering how your product / service fulfills them (or not) is the best place to start. Successful brands spur conversations and build movements.
  2. They don't engage – Despite all the lessons learned from social media, only 16% of companies fully integrate social media. Actively engaging with customers/consumers in a two-way dialogue differentiates brands from static, one-way communicators.
  3. They aren't bold – They pay homage to the God of Safe. Don’t speak colorfully. Never take risks. Don’t invest time expressing visually (with video, infographics, images). Why tell stories when you can recite facts? Always be business-like and never reveal a human side.
  4. They shy away from competition – This one always surprises me because at the C-level – and in the sales trenches – companies constantly sweat the challenges of competition, winning and losing deals. But instead of acknowledging the existence of competition, most companies shy away, acting like theirs is the only candy in the shop. Facing up to competition doesn’t mean companies have to name names or be arrogant. There are many ways to communicate differences in a professional yet more meaningful way.
  5. They aren't relevant – To become (and remain) relevant, brands need to fully engage sensory, social and emotional elements ... not just the rational. When something is relevant, the brand, product or cause becomes part of who we are. We self-identify and move from passive to involved, from indifferent to eager, and are willing (and eager) to act (buy, vote, recommend, etc.).
  6. They don't prove it – It’s one thing to convey competence; it’s another to offer up proof. Getting customers/consumers to express their views about your company/service in first-person language has a profound impact: it enables prospects to relate because they interpret your brand through a more personal lens.
  7. They don't focus on one thing – As companies attempt to zero-in on their customer-centric benefits, they compile long lists of capabilities and attributes. But they often fail to whittle all this down to one believable, sustainable advantage. Less is more – standing for one thing creates memorability.

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