Marketing Differentiators: How to Beat Your Competition

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Traction" by Gino Wickman. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are marketing differentiators? What can you do to make your company stand out from the sea of competitors and make your product appeal to the right customer?

Marketing differentiators are qualities that differentiate your company from industry competitors. Sometimes they are also referred to as uniques or unique value proposition—basically, they’re what you have to offer to your customers.

Keep reading to learn how to choose marketing differentiators and make your product/service appeal to your ideal customer.

What Are Marketing Differentiators?

Many businesses offer too many products or services in an effort to please everyone. As a result, they don’t stand out at anything. Your sales staff should be able to tell customers what you do better than anyone else and to look elsewhere if they want something different—that’s where your marketing differentiators come in.

For example, Southwest Airlines’ three marketing differentiators, under co-founder and CEO Herb Kelleher, were: the lowest fares, on-schedule flights, and having fun. This didn’t satisfy those who wanted additional services, but Kelleher famously stuck to the company’s core focus, telling dissatisfied passengers, in effect, “So long.” Stick to your differentiators and don’t apologize for them.

How to Choose Your Marketing Differentiators

Start by listing everything that makes your company, product or service, and people unique. Include your sales and marketing team in this exercise. Ask some of your key customers the same question. Narrow the list to the three qualities that are most important to you and your customers. None of your competitors should provide all three of these services or attributes the way you do.

For example, a property management firm focused on these marketing differentiators: we offer personalized customer service and sales, we invest in our people, and we have an owner’s perspective.

Your ‘Proven Process’

In most companies, salespeople try to win over new customers by showing them a lot of numbers, visuals, and charts, which makes the salesperson sound the same as every other sales rep.

A more effective sales pitch focuses specifically on what your company does and how. You have a distinct way of delivering your product or service every time that produces a consistent result. It’s why your company is successful.

Define your “proven process” in up to seven steps, present it visually on a single sheet of paper, and give it a name, such as “The X Company Difference.” Presenting your process this way stands out and increases customer confidence in your ability to deliver. You can introduce it like this: “Here’s how we deliver great results for our customers. We have a proven process called …”

How to Create Your ‘Proven Process’

Step 1: Map out up to seven steps for delivering your service and give each step a name. For example, a financial services company listed the following process steps: Discovery, Solution Presentation 1, Competitive Bidding, Solution Presentation 2, Solution Implementation, Review and Service.

Step 2: Add up to five bullet points to each step for salespeople to use as talking points. In the previous example, the first step (Step 1—Discovery) listed the following subpoints: About Us, About You, Defining Your Objectives.

Step 3: Give your delivery process a name, like the “The X Company Difference” or “Our Proven Process.”

Step 4: Have a graphic designer illustrate your process and have it professionally printed.

Your Guarantee

Offering a guarantee as part of your marketing strategy is a way for you to differentiate yourself by calling attention to a service or quality shortcoming of your competitors.

For example, Federal Express emphasized its reliability and speed compared to others by guaranteeing overnight delivery: “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.” Similarly, Domino’s Pizza guaranteed fast delivery:: “30 minutes or it’s free.”

To come up with a guarantee for your company, think about what your customers count on you for.

You don’t absolutely need a guarantee, but you’ll be more successful if you offer one. You’re already missing business because of some area where you don’t have the full confidence of potential customers. If you can get that confidence, you’ll increase your sales.

Besides increasing sales, having a guarantee puts everyone in your company on notice that they need to deliver. It also forces you and your leadership team to ensure the company has the necessary capability. Both of these strengthen your company.

How to Choose a Guarantee

It may take time to come up with the right guarantee for your company. Start by identifying your target customer’s biggest concerns and frustrations. Then develop several guarantees that will bring you more business by addressing these concerns.

Get feedback on your proposed guarantees from customers. Choose the most effective one that you can deliver—call it a pledge, commitment, or promise if you don’t like the word guarantee.

Marketing Differentiators: How to Beat Your Competition

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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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