How To Differentiate Yourself From Your Competitors
Without Competing on Price

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Differentiation from your business competitors ain't so tough. I was watching Squawk Box on CNBC the other morning while I was eating breakfast. The producer price index numbers had just been released. They indicated the biggest jump in the producer price index since 1981. So the big talk was stagflation.

Dear Bob,

I am thrilled with the results of your search engine optimization and web site copywriting for our Roelofs Remodeling website. In the first month since we launched the new website, we’ve had seven serious contacts from the website; four asking for the new Remodeling Planners and three requesting quotes. That’s more contacts than our previous website generated in the many years we had it!

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Gerald L. Roelofs
Roelofs Remodeling

Stagflation is usually described as producer prices rising while the economy is in recession. There was a lot of the usual "talking head" nonsense belaboring the obvious. But then something interesting happened.

Their guest commentator Jack Welch (former chairman of General Electric) was asked a simple question by Steve Leesman, an economist with the show:

“How does a business pass on these price increases in a stagflation situation?”

Jack replied, “The only thing you can do is product differentiation. You have to set yourself and your product apart from your competitors.”

In other words, you can’t raise your prices if you’re selling a commodity.

Okay, so now you’re probably thinking this article doesn’t apply to you because your product or service isn’t a commodity. Guess again. Unless you happen to have no competitors, your product or service can easily be treated like a commodity by your market.

Let me give you an example:

I write restaurant reviews for I start with an interview of the owner or the chef and 75% of the time I hear the same old thing:

“We use only fresh ingredients”

“Everything is made from scratch”

“We have friendly staff/low staff turnover”

Talk about belaboring the obvious. If I go to a restaurant, those are the basic things I expect. Sometimes, if I poke and prod enough, I can pull out a few things that really are unique or different that I can build a story around. And sometimes I can’t.

In those cases, I look the place over from a marketer’s standpoint and figure it out for myself. Pretty much what I have do with many of my copywriting clients.

Lessons in down and dirty marketing in the real world

The lesson here? You may think your product or service is unique or special but if you don’t communicate that to your customers, the only thing left to compete on is price. And when you compete on price, everybody loses.

Another example:

A web designer client recently asked me to write copy for an accounting site. When he got my quote, he complained.
“Why so much? It’s just an accounting site. They’re all the same. You can copy the words off any site, rewrite ‘em a bit and you’re done.”

Yes, I could do that for a lot of my clients and get away with it. IF I want to be a commodity.

I’ll give you one more example.

I wrote the copy for a plastics manufacturing firm’s new website. When I interviewed the president of the company to really dig out what made them different, what their ‘unique selling proposition’ was, he gave me a list of his competitors and told me to go look at their websites. “We all do pretty much the same thing.”

Your first step to REAL product or service differentiation

Go to your competitor’s websites. Look with a jaundiced eye; not rose colored glasses. Do all of your websites tend to look the same? Do they generally say the same things?

Then sit down with a pad of paper, think about your competitors and ask yourself:

1. What sets us apart from all of them?

2. What makes us totally unique?

3. What do we do, sell, or have that makes us completely different?

4. If our product is the same as everyone else’s, what service can we offer that will set us apart? What outrageous guarantee can we offer that no one else would dare?

5. If our service is the same as our competitors, what product or service can we pair with it that will set us apart? What convenience for the customer can we create that none of our competitors offers?

6. And while you’re at it, make sure you’re looking from the standpoint of a potential client or customer, not as an owner.

Now, follow this link to a free questionnaire you can download that will guide you to find your true USP so the next time you work with a marketing firm, a web designer or a professional copywriter, they won’t have to figure out for themselves what truly sets your product or service apart from your competitors. You’ll know.

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