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You will fail if you don’t differentiate

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So many companies struggle to sell their products because they fail to differentiate what they offer. The market has never been more noisy or crowded with options and ways to buy, and that leaves the undifferentiated to compete only on price and maybe proximity (if the thing being sold is costly to move — think: people or refrigerators).

The opportunity to differentiate, on the other hand, is broader than many realize. It involves so much more than just the ‘thing’ being sold.

Differentiating yourself

There are three essential ways to differentiate:

1. The product or service you sell is the first obvious choice for differentiation. If what you do is truly unique — and be careful that it really is — differentiating is about describing not just why, but explaining why it matters in the real-life scenarios that require those unique features. Selling something the market doesn’t need is very inside-out thinking, and so is believing what you do can’t be found elsewhere or copied fairly quickly. Uniqueness is elusive…remember that.

2. The people on your team are an excellent way to differentiate. Apple is great at helping us understand that their product is superior, but the engineers, the designers, and the Apple Store Genius Bar are all there now and into the future. Your team is an enormous differentiator but only when carefully chosen, compensated well, and motivated to succeed. Those who touch the customer need to be more than smart — they need to be empathetic with and intellectually curious about their customers’ needs. Then also need to be highly and clearly motivated to help the customer succeed.

3. The customers who’ve used your product or service to achieve their dreams or solve their problems are an enormous differentiator. There’s no greater story than the one told by those you’ve helped realize a great outcome. The words said by our customers about us are simply louder than the ones we say about ourselves. Getting the customer to speak publicly or take a reference call doesn’t happen after the deal closes…it starts in the very beginning with the relationship and expectations that develop from the first meeting.

The marketplace will only get more crowded as a few more billion people connect and more parts of the world compete with the developed world. How and where you differentiate is your true company asset that requires the same focus and nurturing as any other part of the business. Are you differentiating?

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