2 Ways to Stand Out From Your Competition
Product differentiation is probably the most visible. It includes actual physical and perceived differences, of which the latter can be acquired through advertising. Product differentiation may take the form of features, performance, efficacy (or the ability of the product to do what it is purported to do), meeting specifications, or a number of other criteria. This is the general area in which most B2B marketers — and probably most consumer marketers as well — spend the majority of their time and dollars.
The problem, though, is that product differentiation is short-lived. It is remarkably easy to duplicate almost any product innovation. Of course, the western world has a sophisticated intellectual property rights ethic and legal system that provides copyright and patent protection. From a practical standpoint, though, these do not present challenges. In fact, many businesses choose strategically not to patent since it tells competitors exactly how to duplicate the advantage. At best, product innovation is protected for the life of the patent. At worst, when a patent does not exist, anyone with enough capital to buy a machine may be a competitor in a matter of days or weeks.
Differentiation of service includes not only delivery and customer service, but all other supporting elements of a business such as training, installation, and ease of ordering. To many, these seem like the simple components of a business — the blocking and tackling or the foundational elements that do not require sophistication. But think about a business like McDonald’s.
Like their Big Mac or not, they know how to differentiate on service. With very few exceptions, you will get the same product and the same service at a McDonald’s in Texas that you will get in Georgia, Connecticut, or California. And in each location, the fries will be cooked the same, have the same amount of salt, and be served up equally as fresh from the fryer.