How to Find and Underscore Differentiation

You've got clients and you want to keep them. Unfortunately, your competition is working hard to steal them away. What can you do? We'll talk about what you should and shouldn't do in this article.

Depending on your industry, getting customers can be a zero sum game. That means: rather than getting new customers who have never bought the product before (from you or your competition) you and your competition are just working hard to steal customers from each other over and over. When one wins a customer, the other loses a customer. That’s a zero sum game and many industries are like that.

How do you keep your customers? How do you keep them from going to the competition?

Forget trying to offer the best price and undercutting your competition. One of the most effective ways of getting and keeping customers is to underscore the differences between you and your competitor.

This does not mean that you “mud sling” your competitor by talking down about them. In fact, you should avoid talking about them at all. Instead, underscoring the differences between you and your competitor should be done with class and confidence.

One way to find differences is by asking your customers. Ask your customers why they choose you over the competition. They’ll tell you why: better prices, better service, closer to home, etc. Whatever their reasons are, that’s part of your differentiation. It may differ from one customer to another but it’s important to ask them to get the whole picture.

When a customer is unhappy with the service they receive from you and they are thinking about going to the competitor, one of the things you’ll want to do is remind them of the differentiation: “I’m sorry you received poor service from us. Give us a chance to serve you again soon and we’ll make it right. I know you mentioned that you come here because it’s closer; I’d hate to have you drive all the way across town to the other guy just because of a bad experience that I know was a one-time mishap.”

Another way of finding differences is by comparing advertising. Put their marketing and your marketing side by side. You are looking for one thing: the niche. Who do they serve? Do they serve the business person? Do they serve the chief purchaser in the home? Do they serve women? Do they serve men? Of course you both serve other people but most businesses have a niche they specialize in.

Knowing your niche helps to underline the differentiation in your business. For example, “I know you said that our products are more expensive than our competitors, but I would like to point out that we specialize in serving the retired person such as yourself. Although you pay slightly more here for the same product, you also get service and attention to quality and detail that you deserve that the local business specialists may not focus on as specifically.”

Make sure that you find a way to underscore this differentiation with every customer at least once, and preferably with every customer every time. It doesn’t always have to be in an obvious way; it can be subtle like:

  • We specialize in business owners like yourself. Are there any other services you’d like to receive from us?
  • We really appreciate our retired customers. How do you find the service here?
  • You are part of a very select group of VIP customers and we appreciate your business.

During every interaction highlight what makes you special and different.

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