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How To Differentiate Using Your “How”
Today's video is the third in our series on how to differentiate your business – specially tailored for service businesses.
Today we're looking at a common approach to differentating your business – highlighting the difference in how you do what you do. It's a common approach: but one that often falls flat.
In this week's video I show you the 3 key factors you need to get right to effectively differentiate using your “how”.
Hi, it's Ian. Welcome to another 5 Minute Marketing Tip. We are back looking at how to differentiate your business. In this video, we're looking at how to differentiate your business through the way that you do what you do. How you do it. It's a very common form of differentiation that a lot of services businesses try to use, but often they struggle with it. I'll explain why after the break.
Hi, it's Ian. Welcome back.
A lot of business try to differentiate what they do through the way that they do it, their “how”. It can be very tricky.
It's understandable why people try and differentiate through their how because often in a service business the results you deliver are often very similar across firms. At least the claims of what you deliver. If you work in anything to do with marketing and sales, for example, it's all about getting more revenue, more customers, for your clients. How you do that, the way that you do it, the way that you work with them, is often very different because we're people businesses. People are different. Firms have different kinds of cultures and ways of working. You'll know that if you've worked in a variety of different firms and it can often be very different between similar-looking firms from the outside. Often, that's then embedded in how you try to differentiate yourself in the marketplace, but it can be tricky.
If you want to have a successful differentiation through how you do things, you need to do 3 things.
The first of those 3 things is you need to be able to articulate how your how is valuable to your client. If you're different in terms of the way you do things, that's only useful as a differentiation if that way of doing things is actually valuable to your potential clients. As an example, when I worked with Gemini Consulting in the 90s and then we got merged into Capgemini and Ernst & Young in 2000, one of the ways we tried to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace was the way we worked with clients. We got a lot of feedback from clients that said we were better to work with, we're more fun, we really work well in teams, we worked in a partnership environment rather than being those kind of consultants who flew in and just told people what to do.
Now that's great, and we like getting a lot of great feedback from the clients that we worked with, but in truth, the people who are higher consultants, the Chief Executives, didn't value it anywhere near as much. They weren't walking around thinking, “When I hire some consultants, I really want some consultants who are going to work well with my people.” Most of them were walking around thinking, “When I hire consultants, I want to hire some who will really get results.” They were obsessed by getting improvements. Secondarily, yes it would be nice if they worked well with my people and got on with them, but actually many of them didn't mind all that much. It was the people themselves who weren't the biased who thought it was great. That wasn't a strong differentiation because we weren't able to clearly articulate the value of what we did to our clients.
However it is you differentiate yourselves, you need to be able to articulate the value of that and spell it out. If you do leadership training by working on business problems that the people in the training courses have back in their organizations rather than kind of theoretical case studies for example, you need to be able to articulate why that's better, why that delivers better results, why they'll learn more from that. Because it's real world with real problems etc etc. You can often see that very clearly, but often the people hiring you can't see that so you need to be able to articulate that to them.
Second thing you need if you're going to differentiate through your how is you need to make your how tangible. There are a couple things you need to do. The first is you need to make your how verifiable. For example, if you are a project management consultant and you like to think you're better because you're really good at risk management, much better than your competitors' at risk management. That's great. You can say that, but how do you make that real for your clients? One way you can do it is to make sure that you have certifications, you have various approvals, you have feedback from your clients. All sorts of things that verify that yes, indeed, you really are great at risk management. Second thing you can do is you can quantify it. If it comes to risk management, how many fatalities, or problems, or injuries in terms of safety, do people have on your projects? How many times … How many delays in projects are there that are unexpected?
Back when I was working Capgemini, one of the things Capgemini did really well was in every significant project they did, they would measure the client's expectations. They would ask the client's expectations up front and then at the end of the project they would go back and they would record whether we hit those expectations or exceeded those expectations and they would then publish on their website what they call the OTACE score, the On Time and Above Customer Expectation score. There was quantified evidence of whether they were any good at what they said they were good at.
Final thing you need to do to make your how tangible is to embed it in a methodology or process. Going back to the risk management example, you may say you're great at risk management, but saying to the client, “We're different because we're really good at risk management” is nowhere near as saying to the client, “Actually, we ensure there are … We minimize risk from the project by using our Red Risk Management proprietary process” and then you can describe the steps in that proprietary process. Having a proprietary process or methodology or way you do things sounds … Makes things more tangible for your clients to when they're listening to it. Sounds more convincing than just saying, “Hey, we're dead good at it.” Then it doesn't so formal, it doesn't sound like you've codified it. It sounds like it's completely reliant on the people remembering to do that thing that you say you're good at.
The final thing you need to do to make your how work as differentiation is to give your clients, your potential clients, the experience of that how. Differentiating through a how is great for existing clients because they will have experienced working with you and how you're different. They'll have seen it firsthand that how and it's impact, but if someone hasn't worked with you before, then they don't know what it's really like. You've got to make sure that you give them the experience of working with you before they actually work with you. That's all about your follow-up marketing. Make sure that whatever follow-up marketing you do, it demonstrates and is aligned with your differentiation in terms of your how.
Going back to the project management consultants who are great at risk management, make sure if you're sending articles to your client, then most of them are about reducing risk on projects. Just gets into their mind that you really understand risks. Make sure that you're never late to meetings, you don't have spelling mistakes in your proposals, all that kind of stuff. Those aren't risks, but they indicate that you're a bit loose and that you don't manage things very well, which would indicate you're not that great at risk management in the first because risk management is all about managing certain things very tightly. Make sure every thing you do in your follow-up is very much aligned with your how and that will give clients the experience of your differentiation before they actually end up working with you and it'll make it more real for them.
Those are the 3 big factors for your how. Make sure you can articulate why your differentiation on how you do things is valuable to your potential clients. Make sure you make that differentiation really tangible and give clients the experience of that differentiation before they actually work with you. Do that and that kind of differentiation will work.
See you next week.