Differentiation may be your key to becoming more successful.
Ours is an era of global competition. Success in doing what you do means outperforming your competition and, sometimes, that competition is global.
My father used to say, “There’s always room at the top.”
Even if you enter an extremely competitive field, you can be successful if you are excellent.
Being excellent, though, is insufficient.
Potential clients, patients, or customers need to think that your excellence is your differentiation from your competition.
You should understand that they are insecure. People buy what they think they should have to minimize the risk of losing money, the risk that the product or service won’t work, the risk that it is too dangerous, the risk that their friends won’t like it, and the risk that they’ll feel guilty or irresponsible if they buy it.
In other words, not knowing what they want, consumers follow the herd.
This is why heritage and social proof are excellent sources of differentiation.
Especially if you are unable to use heritage or longevity, focus on providing one benefit. Have one marketing message. The idea is to become the “go to” expert, the best provider for one excellence. Do it well and you’ll be putting social proof on your side. Do it long enough and you’ll be able to use heritage, too.
If, instead, you focus on marketing variations, you will only confuse the marketplace.
Similarly, forget about trying to change minds. Once the marketplace makes up its mind about your product or service, that’s it.
What excellence do you now have that separates you from your competition? If you don’t have one, what excellence could you soon have that would serve as differentiation?
Once you identify it, let the marketplace know about it. If you understand how to use the media to publicize it, you don’t even have to pay to advertise it.
Here are a couple of examples.
I have a niece who is about to graduate from medical school. She’s specializing in anesthesiology. If I were in her position when she’s all finished with her schooling, I’d wonder about my source of differentiation from all the other well-trained anesthesiologists out there.
I’d focus on improving the experience of patients. What could I do to help them relax before surgery? What could I do to help them prepare without fear for the operating and recovery rooms? What could I do to help them heal faster afterwards?
I’d become an expert at hypnosis. It’s effective, interesting, fun, and easy to learn.
That would instantly serve as differentiation from all the other anesthesiologists who only use chemical anesthesia. All kinds of scientific papers have been published arguing that hypnosis in addition to ordinary anesthesia is superior to ordinary anesthesia alone. It not only improves the psychological experiences of patients, but it reduces costs by enhancing recovery.
Why not become known as the anesthesiologist who really cares? My expertise in hypnosis would separate me from most anesthesiologists who haven’t bothered to learn it.
(Actually, this is such an obvious suggestion that even medical schools get it. Since 1958 the American Medical Association has accepted that hypnosis is an adjunct to standard medical care and recommends that it be taught in medical schools. The result is that many medical students are briefly exposed to it, but it is still far from being maximally utilized.)
Another example is that of a struggling landlord. If you are a landlord whose vacancy rate is too high, why not specialize? Equip your apartments appropriately and seek to serve, say, only those who are hearing-impaired or only cat lovers.
The key to providing really effective social proof is that your claim must withstand scrutiny.
If you are not an excellent hypnotist as well as an anesthesiologist, don’t claim to be. If your apartments are not more functional for those who are blind or who must use wheelchairs, don’t claim that they are.
With a little self-examination, you should soon be able to find some feature of your product or service that separates you from your competition. If you look at that feature with the eyes of your clients, you’ll have a benefit to promote in the marketplace that will serve as a source of differentiation between you and your competitors.
Without such differentiation, don’t be surprised if you struggle or, even, fail.
So do what it takes to become excellent in some way or other and tell your story in the marketplace.
As always, if you know someone who might benefit from reading this, please pass it along.
Additional Resources: Robert Cialdini, Influence; Jack Trout and Steve Rivkin, Differentiate or Die; Roberta Temes, Ph.D., The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Hypnosis and Medical Hypnosis. Paul Hartunian’s course on using publicity is excellent.
DEDICATION: I dedicate this post to Victoria. Way to go! Your grandfather would be beaming with pride.