Draw The Line On Differentiation

foot prints in sand_1

Looking for brand differentiation inside your organization is like looking for a needle in a Betty Ford Clinic.

Because differentiation doesn’t exist inside your programs, your offerings, or your organization.

It only exists inside people’s minds.

A cautionary tail

Once upon a time there were three little piggies trying to differentiate themselves in the world.

One built his brand out of the sticks of internal platitudes. Problem was, on the outside, no one noticed because no one cared. His sticks didn’t have anything to do with what they truly valued. And his brand blew away.

Another built her’s out of the wood of what people inside the organization said their client’s wanted. It toppled over in the stiff wind of internal bombast, ego and miscalculations that all the market was just like the eight carefully selected, loyal clients they talked to.

But one upgraded to the bricks of the unaided perceptions of what her tribe valued most when they made decisions. And what they perceived to be distinctive. Her brand not only stood, it transformed her organization.

Leave the we, we, we at home

Why should you be listening to the outside world, to your prospective clients, to your tribe?

Because they, not your internal constituencies, are the people with the power. The power to determine what is of value.  The power to decide.

So whatever technique you use to listen to them, it should answer eight basic value questions.

Most importantly, it should answer them strictly from their point of view. Without any prompting from you.

What makes you unique is them

  • What is the decision process they go through to find sources, evaluate them and approve decisions? (This is not the same as your selling process.)
  • Who is involved in this process and what role do they play in it? (This list will probably go beyond people on your current target list.)
  • What problems, concerns or challenges do they face that you can help them solve?
  • What specific functional and emotional criteria or attributes do they use to make a decision? (Easy, surface answers like price, quality or service don’t count. Dig deeper into their meanings and the emotions behind them.)
  • How important is each criterion to them?
  • What brands do they consider when making a support decision? ( Not all of these will be on your list of competitors.
  • How do they rate each competitor’s performance on their decision criteria?
  • How do they rate your brand’s performance on those criteria?

So find your tribe and purpose

Armed with this information and differentiation strategy, you can position your organization and offering in a way that is most relevant and compelling to people when they are making decisions. Based on the things that they value most when they decide.

And you can build experiences, platforms and stories in a way that will truly help them. And, in the process, differentiate you.

Draw a line

It’s time to stop talking internally about differentiating yourself. It’s time to draw a line in the sand and do it.

Just make sure that line is drawn by the human interactions of your tribe. Not by your board of directors.

But that’s just my opinion. What’s yours?