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Home Marketing “Quality is no longer a differentiator. Quality is your ticket to the dance to compete with others who also have quality.”

“Quality is no longer a differentiator. Quality is your ticket to the dance to compete with others who also have quality.”

The same could be said of many things we offer up as differentiating us from our competitors . . . aggressive pricing, on-time delivery, outstanding customer service, great response time, to name a few.  You have to do all those things.  Customers expect those things, and without them, you can’t even get in the game.  So what can we point to that differentiates us from our competitors?

For many small business owners, that’s a problem.

When an entrepreneur starts a business, it’s often because he or she spots an unmet need in the marketplace and decides to fill it.  If the entrepreneur is right, then satisfying that unmet need becomes the company’s differentiator, or if you prefer, competitive advantage.  But if the entrepreneur is successful, competitors will enter the market, and suddenly the differentiator is diluted . . . the entrepreneur is no longer the only game in town.  Besides,  needs change.  What used to be important to customers may not be so important anymore.  So once again we’ve got the same old problem.  How do we differentiate ourselves from our competitors?

In the finest tradition of entrepreneurship, I think the answer is to never get complacent.  Always be looking for that unmet need that no one else has spotted yet.  And I believe the way to do that is to constantly ask yourself, “What is it customers hate about doing business with my industry?”

Example.  Southwest Airlines observed (correctly, I think) that air travelers hate bag fees and they feel abused by all the rules and restrictions airlines put on their frequent flyer programs.  So Southwest differentiated itself by saying, “We’re the kinder, friendlier airline that doesn’t do those nasty things to our passengers.”

Another example.  When Bill Hybels founded Willow Creek Church, his target market was “the unchurched” . . . people who had become disenchanted with traditional, mainstream churches.  So he did a lot of market research basically asking people, “What was it about your church experience that turned you off?”  He learned people didn’t like organ music, so at Willow Creek you will most likely hear contemporary religious music being played by pop bands.  He also learned that people thought church was boring, so he incorporated performing arts into Willow Creek services.  He learned a lot of other stuff, but you get the idea.  He asked the question, “What is it about church that you don’t like?” and then offered effective alternatives.

So let me ask you.  What is it people hate about doing business with your industry?  And what alternatives can you offer that will be a true differentiator for your business?

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