So you have heard it again and again, you must highlight your differentiators to stand apart in the marketplace. The message has finally sunk in and you are ready to highlight your special sauce. You know it’s good, but you can’t really articulate what the recipe is. How do you go from this point to a streamlined message that gets you noticed?
I have run across this question time and time again with clients, and this is what I tell them. Your recipe should change and evolve over time. This is especially important for my technology centered clients. What’s new and cool today is old news tomorrow. It’s part of the technology marketing game and must be acknowledged to keep your message fresh and relevant. So where do you start? For this example we will use a car.
1) Identify the core benefit of your product (do this for each product you are selling). Example- this product gets users from point A to point B.
2) Name the generic features of your product- feature that will be found in all similar competing products. Example- every product of this kind will have an engine of some sort.
3) List the expected features of your product- what do your customers expect to come standard. Examples- users have to come to expect a radio and heating and cooling system to come standard.
Here is where we will begin to see product differentiators.
4) Begin to list what augmented features your product offers- things that make your product superior. Example- a stereo that communicates with mobile devices. A heating and cooling system that also heats and cools the seats and steering wheel.
5) Name the product potential for your product. What about your product can be adapted in the future to provide continued value. Example- can you upgrade the systems in the car or would you have to buy a whole new car?
Now that you have listed the benefits of your product you can see in what direction you will choose to differentiate. There are several ways a product can be differentiated, but the two most common are vertical and horizontal.
Vertical differentiators are ways that products that are virtually the same, and can be listed in order of price, quality etc. from high to low. Example- Toilet paper. Everyone uses it, so you know what I am talking about in terms of high and low quality and prices ranging high to low.
Horizontal differentiators are evident when there is a product that is similar, but have features that cannot be ordered. Example- Soda pop. The majority of people have tasted it at some point. People may have preferences but there is no real way to say that one has more value or quality than the other.
In both scenarios above you can differentiate successfully by quality/price and/or preferences. Example: #1 For a person running a summer festival in the park, a lower quality toilet paper at a lower cost will have more appeal than a higher quality product at a premium price. #2 People who have a sensitivity to caffeine will be drawn to a caffeine free drink over a drink with caffeine.
After you have taken these initial steps to recognize where your product sits among the competition you can begin to narrow down the categories where your products and services shine. Once you clearly see where you stand out today, you can begin to craft your unique message.