What Makes You Different
One of the best questions you can ask yourself in business is; what makes you different? It really doesn't matter whether we are talking about your business, or your position within a business. I have been asked many times to help people with their business, or with their career, and this is always the first question I ask them. Rarely do I get a cogent answer.
The most common answer is “our company provides the best quality”, or “I work harder than my peers”. While all that may be true, it usually isn't a true differentiator. Just about every business thinks they are different, better, faster, or offer a greater value. The truth though, is that most people cannot articulate what makes them different, better, faster, or why their offer provides a greater value. Whether you are an employee or a business owner, you need to ask yourself this question and give it some serious thought. If you cannot identify specific metrics that truly separate you from the competition, then you are going to have a hard time convincing your customers, or boss, that you are the better choice.
If we take a look at some examples I think my point may become clear about how to differentiate you, even in a saturated market. In previous articles I have used the comparison of Best Buy versus Wal-Mart. I don’t mean to rehash the same point, but I can’t think of a better example when it comes to two completely different experiences within the same market. So for my faithful followers, here I go again.
Wal-Mart is a great company who provides a valuable service to a diverse set of demographics. If you want to but a product and be sure that you are paying near the lowest price possible, then Wal-Mart is the place for you. They have massive superstores now that have everything from furniture to tonight’s dinner. However, it will usually be hard to find a parking space anywhere near the store, it will be very crowded, and chances are you will not get a sales person who has a great deal of knowledge about the products you are considering for purchase. Once you find the product you want, it will take some time to find someone to pull it from the back for you, and if you are lucky, they will help you get it to your car. This works great for the frugal buyer who has no problem getting and loading their own products and already knows what they want. It is especially a great venue for the buyer who spends weeks looking up information on the internet deciding what the best product for their needs is and requires little to no input from a sales person.
Best Buy has a whole different model. They pay their employees no commission, and make sure that they are very well trained on all the products they carry. They have wide open spaces with great selections to choose from, and a salesperson will spend as much time as you need answering questions and making sure you are paired with the proper product. They will gladly load that product into your vehicle, and even send someone to your house to set it up for you if you desire.
So there you have it, two completely different experiences, in the same retail environment. One is not better than the other, just different. Each one caters to a different type of client. If you were to ask Wal-Mart what makes them different, they would more than likely respond, ‘great value and low prices’, and they would be correct. If you were to ask Best Buy what makes them different, they would more than likely respond with ‘great selection and exceptional customer service’, and they too would be correct.
So when you analyze yourself or your business, ask yourself what makes me/us different? For me, at my office, we have designed innovative ways to enhance the customer experience. We have used technology to become more efficient and speed up the service process for our customers. We have also designed a system to ensure the highest possible quality for every job, every time. If that wasn’t enough we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure that we have some of the best trained team members in the industry. While I am not going to reveal all the details, since this is our competitive advantage, be sure that they are a part of our marketing package when approaching new customers.
So what makes you different? What can you do that nobody else can do? If you don’t have that answer, get it! As the economy begins to recover, the companies and employees that truly set themselves apart will have an enormous advantage. You need to identify who is your perfect customer and how can you serve them better than anyone else? If you are an employee, ask yourself what internal need can I fill and be better than anyone else at performing? Once you have identified these things you need to plan and develop internal processes that will set you apart from everyone else. Whether it is focusing on a specific type of customer, service, or job duty, find something that you can do that no one else is offering or can’t offer, and then make that your sole focus. Saying you are better or faster is easy, actually being able to prove it is a whole different situation. So hurry up and develop what truly makes you different than your competition!