Herds Are For Animals

“Our company offers great service and affordable pricing.” 

“We really care about our customers.”

“One call does it all!”

Perhaps platitudes that lack specificity and depth worked 20 years ago.  But in our fist-fighting competitive arena, these flimsy claims say nothing at all.  Your customers and prospects want to know, need to know: What truly makes you different? In a world full of options, unless you can answer this question with precision, you may soon be in the very difficult position of systematically losing to your competition.

I ask the “what makes you different?” question constantly to people in a wide array of organizations – from financial planners to speaker bureaus, from personal trainers to universities.  Remarkably, I rarely hear a solid response. The most common reply is “Great question! We really need to come up with something better to say.”  The second most common is some characteristic that is just the ante to play such as great service, attention to detail, or high integrity.  Those qualities are important, but a competitive differentiator they are not.  Instead, I want to hear a sentence that starts with, “We’re the ONLY company that….”

With fickle consumers, dwindling loyalty, and over-the-top marketing, you can’t afford to blend in.  And being 3% different doesn’t cut it either.  You need to be able to clearly articulate why you are a one-of-a-kind, truly differentiated organization to win and keep customers.  Focus more on what makes you different instead of the things that are the industry norms.  Customers crave – and will pay handsomely for – originality, not conformity.

The super-smart folks at The Gartner Group came up with a simple diagnostic tool: the Competitive Swap Test.  Simply swap out your name for a competitor’s name while making a claim.  If the phrase still holds true, you haven’t said enough to stand out.  If you boast great response times, but could swap in three competitors’ names that also have similar responsiveness, you fail the test.  You need to find deeper, stronger points of differentiation to win the hearts and minds of your customers.

Think of your favorite brands or organizations, and you’ll likely see they stand apart from the pack in your mind, easily beating the Competitive Swap Test with their brand promise, features, and benefits.  To drive your own business – or even your career – start crafting the story of what makes you different.  When your answer is powerful, and you can deliver against the promise, you become unstoppable.

Herds are for animals.  Break away, and run free.