The business world today is saturated with products that are similar, and if your product is in competition with several others within the same market, it can be difficult for you to gain an edge over your rivals. What then should you do to beat your unrelenting competitors? Experts suggest that you should find a way to distinguish yourself so that you can stand out from the rest of the crowd. In other words, you should find your point of difference and highlight it so that your product or service can be uniquely attractive to the customer.

Whats a point of difference? Its a characteristic of a product or service that establishes differentiationthe term differentiation is used in business to refer to the way in which a product or service of a particular company differs from that of its competitors. If your company makes a particular consumer product, why would a customer who’s walking through an aisle in the supermarket pick your product and not the one next to it? If you can answer that question, then you have found your point of difference. Before we discuss various ways of finding your point of difference, lets first clarify the benefits of having one.

Benefits of having a point of difference

As weve mentioned, a point of difference makes your product or service stand out, and as a result, consumers take notice. For example, if yours is a delivery company, and your point of difference is that you deliver in less time than your competitors, customers may prefer your service because it saves them a little time. If you run a grocery store, your point of difference could be that you sell organic’ or locally sourced’ produce, and this could attract customers who are particular about what they consume. If you run a taxi business, your point of difference could be that you only use cars that are highly fuel-efficient. That one detail about your business could lead customers to pick you, and it could significantly increase your market share.

If your differentiation strategy works well enough, it could lead to increased brand awareness as well as higher levels of brand loyalty. This can be a major advantage, especially if your company makes several products or provides a number of services under the same brand. A person who buys your product today because of your point of difference may come back tomorrow to buy your other products because yours is the brand that she now prefers.

How to find the right point of difference for your company

To find your point of difference, you need to ask yourself what are my companys core strengths? After you have identified what you are good at, you can work from there and create a more articulate point of difference. Your strength could be that you provide exemplary customer service, your product is superior in one very specific aspect, or that you have a great brand story that could endear you to your prospective customers. After you have discovered your strength, make sure that it is the first thing that people know about your brand. Create a marketing campaign that testifies to your strength, and put the word out there. If you have a good enough marketing strategy, you may even be able to make your point of difference synonymous with your brand (a good example of this is Whole Foods, which has managed to make its brand synonymous with fresh healthy organic food).

You can also create a point of difference by aligning your brand with a cause that people care about. These days, consumers like to buy products from companies that share their values. Your point of difference could be that a certain percentage of your profits goes towards a particular charity or a project that makes a real difference in people’s lives.

Another way to create a point of difference (particularly for companies that provide services), is by creating a positive company culture. If your employees interact with your customers on a daily basis, the quality of those interactions could be your point of difference. People always remember if they received great service at a particular restaurant, or if they had a pleasant conversation with a customer rep. Warm and friendly employees can be what sets you apart from your competitors.

Some businesses have been able to create a point of difference by making their customers feel like they are members of an elite, exclusive club. For example, American Express has managed to carve itself a niche in a market that is dominated by MasterCard and Visa by giving lots of perks to its clients. If you make customers feel like they are part of a club or a family, they are more likely to be loyal to your brand.

Finally, for your ‘point of difference’ strategy to work, you can never compromise on quality. Consistency is important if you want your point of difference to register in the mind of the customer. If you franchise your brand or outsource some of your services, make sure that whoever you partner with cares enough to uphold the reputation of your brand. Your point of difference is a standard that you must live up to every day.

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