A differentiator is unlike any other comparable product. Differentiators are distinctive; they set you apart from your competition and determine why your customers choose you. They make your products recognizable, influential and special. All admirable traits, yet difficult to achieve. There is no formula to follow per se as differentiators can be varied. Some examples include:
- Pricing. I’m different because I’m cheap may sound tawdry. But oh boy is it effective. Who wouldn’t want to save a dollar? The problem is you will have to keep it up. Constant pressure on your cost base is no fun for anyone. Who ordered the refill in a restaurant that charges for refills, is not a happy question. But that’s the level of attention to detail and scrutiny you will need to employ if you compete based on cost. This is an effective strategy to follow but requires a ruthless streak, rigorous controls and discipline. (Yes Sir or Madam.)
- Reputation. You may be the CEO of your neighborhood, or town, or region, or state, etc. Your name is known and your reputation precedes you. This can be a powerful differentiator, especially if your sales depend on relationships. Influencing skills are really effective when your interests are aligned. Not so much if they are not.
- Ease of use. Point and click has created billionaires around the world. Making it easier to get around the world has had the same effect. The lesson here is that when customers find it easy to use, they also find it easy to pay. But easy to use doesn’t come easily. It requires a measured, analytical approach like six sigma to pull off. Up front planning, analysis of interactions and the willingness (and courage) to trade your assumptions for real feedback are essential ingredients to this strategy.
Having a solid answer to what makes your offer special is a fundamental of a good business plan.