Business

Zero In On Your Strengths: ’Differentiators’ Are Key

Here’s an interesting statistic: Although more than 80% of businesses believe that their products and services are truly differentiable, only 8% of their customers agree. That’s a huge disparity, not to mention a huge challenge, for businesses interested in customer retention and loyalty.

When two businesses are seen as identical, loyalty (not surprisingly) goes out the window. This is the point at which price, convenience and location begin to outweigh any perceived benefits that your products and services may bring. I liken this to the Coke and Pepsi battle: Most soda drinkers have a strong preference for one or the other.

If a potential customer or client sees two integrators exactly
the same way, then they view
you as interchangeable.

The way preference and differentiation affect customers is also significant in the integration space. If a potential customer or client sees two integrators exactly the same way, then they view you as interchangeable. This will have an impact on winning the sale and keeping the customer…or not. And even if you do win the sale, that doesn’t mean you’ll win the next one. A better price or a shorter delivery time may be all that’s required for the client to choose “the other guy” the next time.

These scenarios should have you asking yourself a very important question: “Do I know what my business is good at?” Perhaps it would be even better to ask, “Do I know what makes my business great? What makes people want to buy from me and no one else?”

I can’t tell you how often I speak to integration firm executives (even the business owners!), only to find that they can’t tell me what their business is doing that others in the space are not. I commonly hear answers like:

  • “We provide the highest levels of customer service.”
  • “Our company has the most qualified technical staff in the area.”
  • “We have the best technology partners and products, and we integrate them better than anyone else around.”

All of those things sound nice, but here’s the problem: In almost all cases, those differentiators are arbitrary, subjective and self-selected. If your company were to suggest that it offers the highest level of customer service, I would ask:

  • “Compared to what? What is the basis of this service excellence?”
  • “According to who? Is this according to an association or trade magazine?”
  • “What time period was this best service provided?”

Although customer service (or any number of things) may, indeed, be what differentiates your business, the bigger problem is that it’s too often unqualified and unquantified. This results in your customers seeing your “differentiators” as nothing more than empty marketing speak. If your goal is to truly stand out from the crowd, “empty” isn’t an option. But there are some things you can do to truly zero in on what your business is best at:

  • Ask Your Customers: Too often, companies don’t take the time to do surveys or conduct purposeful meetings with current and former clients to understand why they bought from the company (or why they stopped). This insight is invaluable to an integrator who is trying to understand differentiation.
  • Engage Your Employees: As an owner or executive, sometimes you can’t see how others perceive your business. If you ask your team and truly listen, they may understand how the market views your business. This can help you focus on your biggest differentiators.
  • Plan a Data-Driven Approach: Make it a point to wrap data around your differentiation claims. Customer satisfaction rates, on-time delivery of projects, savings from increased productivity or other items that offer value and can be measured are far better than arbitrary statements about how great you are.

Once you receive qualitative feedback from your customers and wrap real data around it, you are then in the driver’s seat and well on your way toward marketing the true differentiators of your business.

The more you can help your customers see how and why you are different in a way that benefits them, the more likely they are to proactively choose you as their supplier.

Winning more business, keeping more customers and increasing profitability are all possible when customers truly see why they should choose you over the other guy. In fact, two-thirds of companies are willing to pay up to 13% more for the same service, just because the experience of dealing with a certain company is better. That 13% increase is a game changer for integrators.

So what does your business do that is truly great? If you don’t know, that’s okay. But today is the right time to start figuring it out. And if you need help doing so, or a little outside perspective, NSCA’s Member Advisory Council can help you do just that. For more info, visit www.nsca.org/mac.

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