If you are a small business owner, an entrepreneur or a consultant, you likely understand that customers have expectations and they expect them to be met. Therefore, in order for you to differentiate your business, you need to find a niche, which can be difficult as seldom do we sell products and services different from our competitors. Furthermore, even if we believe our products and services are better, it is nearly impossible to create that kind of customer perception, as again, they expect products and services to be good to excellent. So what to do?
One way to overcome the differentiation challenge or what I prefer calling the "what makes you special" opportunity is to focus on the "who" (customers)" not the "what" (your products and services). By doing so, you can create a customer experience that is unique to your business, and cater to those customers who want and need that experience. Of course, before you do any of this, you must understand who your ideal customer is and that should be done as early as possible in your business's life.
My business employs several well-thought out strategies to exceed our customer's experience expectations. They include, but are not limited to, the following:
- We guarantee our services (marketing and communications). If we do not achieve the goals that were set before the job started, our customers keep a substantial sum of money, which is deducted from the final payment. Risky but our customers love it.
- Our clients deal only with me. No matter how large or how small the client's business, every client talks with me and I am their Account Executive. It's time consuming but we also promise that every client is treated as if they are our only client. We have to keep our promises.
- We are a values-based business and every decision, everything we say and do, is filtered through those values. That means we only work with clients who have similar values, which sets up a model wherein we and our clients work well together and are a good fit.
Well, that is how we strive to be special.
It works for us because we have a clear understanding of where our business is going, how it is going to get there, and what clients we are going to work with along the way. Some of you may find our strategies unwise and some may relate to them.
Feel free to share. We all can learn from each other through the comments section. How do you differentiate your business? How would you advise others to show their specialness? What works for you and what does not?
P.S. Drew, thank you for letting me to talk with your readers. It is my honor. And readers, I hope I delivered the quality you have come to expect from Drew. He is a tough act to follow.
Drew's Note: With over 30 years of corporate marketing experience, Lewis Green jumped the fence and opened his own agency, much to his clients' good fortune. Lewis' 5th book, Lead with Your Heart has just been released and Lew blogs to boot. Just like his book title, Lewis leads with his heart and is clearly one of the good guys!
Lewis, Between your post and your subsequent comment, I saw a shift. The former was from a business perspective and the second from a customer or client. I like seeing that zooming in and out between roles. I think that important.
I have been learning about dealing with “what makes specialness” myself after many years in education and academe and playing so many tutor and research roles. It’s not an industry (if you will) that educates about self branding and a lot has to be taken on-board in moving to the commercial sector.
I also know what you mean about that element of “import[ance] to them”. In coming to ‘know’ a new business I like them to lure me into forgiveness if an error is made. That encourages loyalty in me.
A business can also make you feel special by knowing you and what you like for them to occasionally surprise you with a new treat or product they think will cause you pleasure or joy.
I’m sure you know how well you write Lewis but that was a gentlemanly courtesy to offer Drew. 🙂
Lewis, Without of course giving the details because of confidentiality, I recently completed a job for a business. One of their issues was not understanding why one of their product services, which they believe to be excellent, is not being seen by all their clients in the same manner. It reminded me of those activities where people blindfold themselves to know what it is like to cope walking a street if one is blind. The business had to be led into the mind/body place of a large section of their membership to understand why such a gap existed between the business perception and the client perception.
They are grizzling and unhappy despite finally ‘getting it’ and I think that is a mindset issue. I’d like them to feel excited and happy that they have free information at hand in order to improve and re-model as aspect of their business. In fact, the changes they would need to make are well within their capability and relatively easy to achieve. But still the resistance.
I’ve seen a few business lately that seem to view the client almost as if they are a nuisance. An odd mindset I would have thought in the contemporary world. But I think what strikes me most is a business having forward plans and being so intent on sticking to it rigidly that they can’t, or refuse to, hear the voices of their clients asking for some ‘thing’ *now*.
That more than anything is a problem I’m observing in many burgeoning businesses. They have a business plan but can’t get out of the straight jacket of it even when there are strong reasons to do so.