Differentiate without flushing.


In addition to the tragic human toll, the pandemic has killed off a lot of businesses. As a result, the average strength of those left standing is greater. There is also more room for disruptive newcomers. And being diagnosed as average within any market will be increasingly terminal.


The importance of the Internet as the main interface between sellers and buyers in almost any market today intensifies this effect. Customers have never been so powerful because the Web has democratized access to information. And despite some of it being spurious, much of it is detailed, evidence-based and peer-reviewed. That’s why businesses and consumers have usually eliminated many possible providers from their shopping list before they even talk to a salesperson – if they do at all.


The 5 biggest differentiation mistakes


This is terrifying for many business owners and executives – and it should be. But the way they react is frequently misguided. Here are the four biggest mistakes I see organizations make when they try to stand out from the crowd in a hyper-competitive environment.

  • They attempt to market their way out of the situation with the latest social media fad tactics.

  • They invent meaningless gimmicks or begin a race to the bottom on price.

  • They double down on old-fashioned sales enablement or revert to stone-age practices like cold-calling to try and “make the numbers work”.

  • They invest in slow and ruinously expensive innovation projects to develop a new unique product feature – which often turns out to be irrelevant or outdated by the time they get it to market.

  • They focus on what (they think) makes them special, rather than on what their customer cares about.

Fortunately, the solution is simpler, faster, and cheaper than many businesses realize. When organizations come to me to help them differentiate, I take them through the following four steps to get them focused on what matters:


4 Steps to differentiation through value


Step 1) Define what your customers value, and double down on investments in and communications about that. For example, do they care more about faster delivery than the best possible quality?


Step 2) Get creative about new types of value adjacent to your existing areas of operation, which are fast and relatively inexpensive to realize. Take inspiration from Michelin. They developed a hospitality guide to encourage people to drive more often. It is now as synonymous with fine dining as it is with tires.


Step 3) Make it easier for buyers to buy with better information quality, detail, and availability, rather than reinforcing a sales team that prospects don’t want to speak to anyway.


Step 4) Get more value from your existing customers by getting them involved in your sales and marketing processes. Turning them into proactive advocates will help you dramatically reduce your investment in outbound sales.


To summarize: Spend more time and effort in identifying and delivering what customers value and building closer relationships with them. And stop defaulting to investing more and more in traditional sales, marketing and “innovation”.


If you’d like some ideas on how to avoid average and increase value for customers quickly and cost-effectively, visit https://www.hamishmackenzie.com/ebooks to get my new “Extraordinary Made Easy” ebook.


Alternatively, contact me at hm@hamishmackenzie.com for a free 30-minute consultation.

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Copyright Hamish Mackenzie Consulting, 2021