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The “Secret Sauce” That Makes Differentiation Pay
We all know that we need to differentiate ourselves. To stand out from the crowd. be seen as an expert or authority. Specialise. Do something different.
Otherwise, our potential clients don’t have any reason to pick us over our competitors or to pay us premium rates.
That’s why so much of marketing focused on proving to potential clients that you’re different.
But there’s an additional factor you need to show. Something often overlooked, but without which all your differentiation means nothing.
Find out what it is and how to apply it in this week’s video…
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Hi. It’s Ian here. In today’s five minute marketing tip we’re going to look at the flip side of differentiation.
We all know that we have to stand out from the crowd, differentiate ourselves, be a specialist, be seen as an authority, an expert, someone different and standing above from our competitors. Otherwise, there’s no reason for potential clients to choose us instead of them or to pay premium prices but without this one thing that I’m going to talk about after the break, all that differentiation comes to nothing. I’ll explain what it is after this word from our sponsors.
Hi, welcome back. Okay, they weren’t sponsors. It was just a little banner thing.
We all know, as I said, that we need in one way or another to differentiate ourselves from our competitors. That can be because we specialize or we’re seen as an authority or an expert. We do something inherently different to those competitors, or better than those competitors that gives our potential clients a good reason to choose us or to pay premium prices to work with us but all that relies on the fact that our potential clients will value our differentiation. They will see that whatever it is we’re different and better at will result in better end results, better outcomes for them and that’s not always the case. In fact, it’s very true that in corporate organizations for example, the whole role of procurement, and purchasing, and buyers in those organizations is to try to commoditize you as a supplier, to try and find ways of looking at all suppliers the same so they can trade one off against the other, get a better deal, swap in a preferred supplier that they’re used to working with rather than you who they’re not, et cetera, et cetera. Your differentiation is only valuable if clients see that it really helps them get a much better end result.
I’ll give you an example. When I was working for a big consulting firm, I was the account manager for a big global pharmaceutical company, and we pitched for a job doing a big lean manufacturing project. Our positioning was that we were specialists in lean manufacturing in the pharmaceutical sector because we did a ton of work in the pharmaceutical sector. We did a lot of lean manufacturing and other supply chain work there so we positioned ourselves as having that expertise which very few other companies did. We lost out to a generalist lean manufacturing firm despite all that positioning, despite all that differentiation because essentially at the end of the day, the client decided that for them, expertise in lean manufacturing was important but being a specialist in lean manufacturing for the pharmaceutical sector wasn’t. In fact, they saw value in bringing outside expertise from outside the sector in. If a client doesn’t see your differentiation as valuable to them, in this particular circumstance, then you’re not going to win. They’re not going to want to hire you.
How do you make sure that your client sees your differentiation as valuable? The first step is not to persuade them, it’s to find clients in the first place who already believe that your type of differentiation is valuable. Now sometimes you can see that in advance. You can see it on their website, in their annual report, you can see that they value specialists in certain areas. Most of the time it’s not possible to see whether they’ll value your type of expertise or differentiation from the outside. What you have to do is have a very healthy pipeline.
If you’ve got enough leads, enough contacts with potential clients coming in, then when you have your initial discussions with them, your initial interactions, then you can whether they’ll value your differentiation or not from the way they react when you talk to them. When you talk about what you do that’s different, you can see whether they value it and then you just focus your efforts on the ones that do. That’s why it’s so important to have a really healthy pipeline because if your pipeline of new leads and new potential clients is restricted to just a few then you’ve just got to go with what’s in that pipeline. You’ll find yourself working with and pitching for business with people who don’t value you, they don’t value how you’re different, they’re not willing to pay extra for it and they just view you as a commodity.
The first step is to have a really healthy pipeline so you can pick and choose and focus on the people who value the way you’re different. The second thing is to make sure that the client who kind of understands that differentiation is important, really sees the value of it. Just as … Whenever you’re marketing and selling I’m sure you have lots of case studies, stories, examples, reference studies that show how you are different. You’ve got stories about the things you’ve done that are different, that prove your differentiation. You also need case studies, examples, stories, research that show that that differentiation is valuable. Stories about how because, and it doesn’t have to be about you, how because a client chose a specialist in this particular area they got a better result. Studies that show that clients that choose a specialist, or an expert in a particular area, or whatever way you’re different, get better results. You need really strong evidence that going with a specialist, or an expert, or someone who’s different in this particular way, like you are, gets better results. Then you can move on to showing that you’re the right expert, the right specialist, the right person with that difference to fill that slot.
It’s kind of like a two step selling process. Step one, sell them on the idea that the differentiation is valuable. Step two, show that you’re the person with that differentiation. In some ways that’s a better way of selling than trying to bundle them together and convince them that you’re the right person first because they’re kind of skeptical because it’s in your interest to show them that you’re the right person. If first you start talking about whether or not they need a specialist, or an expert, or someone who’s different in a particular area, irrespective of whether it’s you, it kind of feels more objective and they can agree or disagree with that statement about whether they need an expert, a specialist, or someone who’s different first. Then once you’ve established that there’s kind of no going back. Then it’s all just about whether you are the right person to fill that slot. Then the discussion becomes easier.
Those are the two things to do. One is have a really healthy pipeline so you can choose people who are inherently more inclined to value the ways that you’re different and better. Secondly, make sure you’re really communicating with people about the importance and the value of that difference, irrespective of whether that difference comes from you, but talk about the value of the difference before you talk about whether you’re the right person to give that difference.
That’s it for this week. See you next.