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Unique, Differentiated? But Are You Relevant?

by David Brock on April 16th, 2014

It’s critical that we differentiate our offerings and solutions from the alternatives the customer is considering. Marketing, product management, and sales all spend endless hours trying to figure out that differentiation, to create that edge. But too often we get it wrong.

We focus on unique features and functions of our products, how our approach is different and better. About a year ago, someone shared a differentiation document their product management team had put together. It was 200 pages. It went through each screen and each field of their software product. It had very valuable tips like, “The way the customer enters the date field is very different than the way it’s done by our competition.” or “The drop down box in this field provides the customer easy and consistent choices……, versus our competition which has a text entry box only….”

You can imagine a 200 page document filled with these “critical differentiators.” Surely, all we have to do is drop a copy of this on the customer’s desk, and they will be driven to issue a PO.

Or we seek to be unique, “We’re the only company in the world that allows you to enter all your data in Hex!” But who cares!

For differentiation or uniqueness to be valuable (remember, we are all about creating value for our customers), it has to be relevant! If the customer doesn’t care about it, or it’s unimportant to what they are trying to achieve, our attempts at differentiation only waste their time and aggravate them.

Until we understand what the customer values, until we understand what they are trying to achieve we can’t begin to determine our differentiation or uniqueness. Because, what each customer values is different! Once we understand this, we can determine the differentiators or areas of uniqueness that are relevant and create greater value to the customer.

So stop wasting your time creating endless lists of how you are different. It’s meaningless. Tell your marketing and product management people they can be spending their time more productively than putting together tomes on the finest points of differentiation.

Invest your time in understanding what your customer values. Then look at the areas of differentiation that are most relevant and add value.

Above all, never forget, the most sustainable area of differentiation is created by sales. It’s the value we create in engaging the customer and guiding them through their buying process!

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7 Comments
  1. Excellent post, Dave. I’ve been writing about this, sort of, without saying it exactly the same way, in my posts on sales growth through customer focus. If you start with your buyers, and understand their challenges, issues, opportunity, concerns, goals, and desired outcomes, you can can develop products or position solutions that really matter (have relevance and provide value) to *them.*

    If you can get out of the “late to the game” rut, and use alerts and trigger events to enter the cycle earlier, AND deliver relevance and value, I could argue that unique and differentiated matter even less.

    Anyway, thanks for the great reminder, again, that thinking from your customer’s perspective is the path to sales success. I still see a lot less of it, than I would like.

    • Mike, always love your comments, thanks for contributing. Also, very happy to see you blogging on your own again. One of my favorites! http://mikekunkle.com

      • You’re a good man, Dave. I don’t care what everyone else says about you. 😉 Seriously, thanks for the words and have a wonderful holiday weekend.

  2. Almost a year ago, we went through the exercise of “What will we be when we grow up?” We decided to laser focus in our sweet spot – where passion, purpose, and profit intersected.

    Along the way, we enlisted the help of people smarter than us to ensure we got there. One of the greatest lessons we learned in the last year (and we already knew it – but now we really know it) is to know who we are targeting and why. We now have target personas – our ideal Client.

    As a result, the complexity of our message – our “pitch” diminished profoundly. We now have a laser-focused website with a laser-focused message with a laser-focused target persona.

    No more 200 page documents for us.

    Love your posts, Dave…

    Keep rockin’!

    • Thanks for joining the discussion Chris! I love it when people take the time to understand their sweet spot, and keep focused on it. It enables you to focus your efforts on the organizations you can help and where you have the most impact. Great comment.

    • Well, this is no surprise to see, coming from you, Chris. But kudos, just the same. It’s hard to hit a target you can’t see, but I’m surprised by how many organizations don’t get this simple message and follow your example.

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