Marketers like to encourage you to think about differentiation — that is, what makes your business/story unique. The goal: to figure out a way for your business to stand out from the crowd to potential clients. The more and better you differentiate, the less expensive and more effective is your marketing.
Easier said than done, perhaps. However, sometimes the best insights into your uniqueness occur when an outsider looks in — and either sees your business in operation, or even better, becomes a client. If that client happens to be a marketing expert, you might end up with some really good advice.
Differentiation’s value relates to our intellectual laziness and mental short-cut process, and this mind-process can be reflected by both the inspiration (and result) of this blog posting.
I enjoyed Perryn Olson‘s The Brand Constructors blog posting, Who cares about differentiation anyway, because it simply explains the concept as it takes a shot at one of my favourite construction marketing pet peeves: The assertion in so much construction marketing material of stuff that is, well, absolutely NOT differentiation.
If you ask a dozen construction companies what they think their differentiation is – 10 of them will probably say, “We’re on time, on budget” or “Great customer service,” or “We have the best people.” That seems to be the baseline qualification, but there is nothing special about you if 10 out of 12 competing companies say it too.
Accordingly, I set out to send out my regular email, with an invitation for readers to say what makes their business unique.
I needed an image, and to ensure there are no copyright issues, sought one with istockphoto.com, picking the screw selection both evocative and relevant.
Then, this morning, in writing today’s blog posting, I noticed to my surprise that Olson had used the same image. He was, clearly, first to select it.
Did I intend to copy the image used in the other marketing blog? No. It just seemed to be the best for the topic. But my mind probably was playing tricks with me. I subconsciously associated the image I wanted for my eletter with the image used in the effective blog posting. This is the way our minds work.
There is nothing wrong with this sort of duplication, and it can even be a short-cut to marketing success, when you borrow good ideas from other circumstances and non-competitive markets (and more rarely) in a directly competitive situation.
Your borrowing should appear to be unique to your potential clients. Otherwise, your intended clients might take mental shortcuts and associate your business with your competitor, and call or elect to do business with the other organization, like I did.
This is why it is important to be first in mind — and effective differentiation helps you to achieve this important result.
Be different (in a good way). Show it. And be first. You’ll achieve differentiation (and marketing) success.