5 Steps to Create a Differentiation Strategy

By Lee W. Frederiksen, Ph.D

A business can have the best product or service in the world and offer it at the best price and still fail. Why is that? Because they fail to differentiate themselves from the competition and show a clear and compelling reason why potential clients should do business with them.

The key is creating a solid differentiation strategy that will set you apart in the marketplace and show prospects why it’d be foolish to go anywhere else.

Business differentiation is the process of making your firm stand out in a crowded field of me-too competitors and a differentiation strategy is the guidebook for how to do it. As a digital marketer, you can do this efficiently and cost-effectively using a variety of digital tools. This blog post will show you how.

Developing and implementing a differentiation strategy is a five-step process that begins with understanding what it is that’s unique about your firm and ends with telling the world how that uniqueness will benefit prospects:

1. What exactly do you want to be known for?

What is your area of expertise and how can prospects benefit from that? This is a strategic level consideration that will help you begin to focus your business differentiation. Does your firm specialize (or can it?) in a specific industry or function? For example, do you market mostly to consumers (B2C) or do you excel in promoting to other businesses (B2B)? Or perhaps you have experience in healthcare marketing or nonprofits that you can focus on.

2. Do your research.

We have found that firms that research their target client group tend to grow faster. In fact, the fastest growing firms (those that grow at least 20% year over year) are twice as likely to conduct research as their no-growth peers. Research will help you better understand the challenges and concerns of sales prospects and help you align your firm’s offerings with them. Because you will have gained insight into areas of interest to potential clients it will be easier to develop a list of topics to write about to make your expertise more visible to your target audience.

3.Develop your differentiators and unique selling proposition.

Now’s the time to carefully consider what sets you apart from competitors and enables you to deliver exceptional value to a specific market segment. That becomes your target audience. Build a list of potential differentiators and check them for viability with this simple, three-step test:

Is it true? Whatever you claim needs to be real and deliverable. You can’t state something that you’d like to be true. It must be true.

Is it relevant? If your point of distinction doesn’t matter to your prospects, it won’t bring you more business. You’re just wasting everyone’s time.

Is it provable? Empty claims won’t cut it. You may have identified a true and relevant differentiator, but it’s useless without proof. Even if a differentiating statement is true, if you can’t substantiate it with evidence buyers won’t believe it.

Good examples abound of poor differentiators that fail this last step. Such as the many firms that claim to be “the leading ______.” What qualifies as “leading”? Top in sales? Number of employees? Customer satisfaction? And by whose measure? See what we mean?

Once you have your true, relevant, and provable differentiator(s) determined, you’ll need to focus you message regarding them into a unique selling proposition that puts your differentiators into perspective for potential clients. In many ways, it’s like a mission statement. Why do your differentiators make your firm valuable and beneficial to the prospect? What’s so unique that’s unavailable from a competitor? You need to create a brand which shields you from the competition by highlighting why you are different.

4. Build your story using digital marketing techniques.

Now you’re ready to tell your story to the world. Well, to your target audience, specifically. Most prospective clients will check out your website, so that’s a great place to start. First impressions matter. Your website should help visitors answer the question “is this firm for me?”

As a digital marketer, you have lots of tools at your disposal to spread your message far and wide and make your expertise highly visible. Blogs, webinars, eBooks, online workshops, speaking engagements, even videos you can post. The list goes on.

5. Tell the world and then check to see who’s listening.

Develop a digital marketing campaign that enables you to publish your differentiating content through various channels to ensure adequate reach-and-frequency with your target audience. In other words, do you have messages scheduled regularly that will be seen and heard by the largest percentage of your best prospects?

Track your efforts and monitor their impact. Are you getting more inquiries? From where and when? Test and adjust your outreach activities. Your message will get better and resonate more to help you build a stronger brand each time you make results-driven adjustments to your campaign.

Business differentiation, a well-thought-out differentiation strategy, and a commitment to implementing your plan will accelerate your firm’s visibility and perceived expertise. The end result will be better growth and profitability. And what a big difference that will make.

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