If you are a business owner then it is quite possible that you might know the following statistic very well. Only half the businesses make it past first five years and only one-third make it past the 10-year mark. Now there can be many reasons behind why a certain business fails but many a times lack of a differentiator-something that sets it apart from its competitors- is hovering somewhere at the top among the reasons of failure.
While there are no sure shot ways to know what might work and what might not, there are some simple practices that can be used effectively to ensure that your brand comes to be known as different from its competitors.
- Excellent service: Customer is king is not an adage that is restricted to the advertising world. Providing excellent service and customer support makes people want to come back to you again and again. A shoe company called Fleet Feet, fits its customers for running shoes. They watch you run and walk and then suggest a shoe. They let you run in the parking lot to know how the shoes feel and even after you have purchased their product, they let you return it after weeks and months if unsatisfied. If as a customer you get this kind of extraordinary service, would you want to go somewhere else at all for your shoes?
- Own up when you make a mistake: Nobody likes to be made a fool of. Customers equate the brand with their own experience and one bad experience is all they need to write you off. So, when you bungle up somewhere, own it up. In July 2011 Netflix angered consumers when it announced plans to hike up subscription rates by 60 per cent in an attempt to boost revenues and splitting the business into two. Seeing the reaction from the public, CEO Reed Hastings, sent out mass emails apologising to users explaining how he had ‘messed up’ and ‘owed everyone an explanation’ when the Qwikster plan had to be scrapped within a month of its launch.
- Be the expert: Domino’s Pizza has set itself as a household name in pizza delivery thanks to its expert home delivery and 30-minute guarantee. Using what you are best at as a differentiator is a smart move because like Dr Seuss said that ‘no one is youer than you’ and that’s what will make you unbeatable and unparalleled.
- Get yourself a mascot: A talking lizard that has nothing to do with insurance, helps millions of Americans believe that there is something different about the insurance company GEICO with a touch of humor.
- Create a powerful offer: Every day the online selling space sees the arrival of yet another e-commerce website. Zappos gives its customers a year to decide if they would like to return a pair of shoes brought from their online store. And no one probably in the whole e-commerce business can or does offer this kind of offer eliminating any hesitation in making a purchase thus leading to high sales as Zappos.
Differentiation is a strategy that you have to have in a place to make sure that no one can take your place.