Grow your business by differentiating your product or service
In an increasingly competitive world, how can your product or service stand out from the rest? The key is to redefine your offering so that it not only gains visibility, but gets noticed by those who matter the most - your target market.
I observed my good friend, Ben, the owner of "A Baker's Dozen" donut shop, as he dealt with this issue. Ben sold several different types of donuts in a clean, well-located downtown shop that was known for its great customer service. Still, his business was struggling. As I listened to him describe his confusion as to why his sales were weak despite offering terrific products, it struck me that perhaps he needed to take a step back and concentrate on identifying his products key attributes - as perceived by his target market.
I suggested to Ben that he needed to think about:
- Which characteristics and traits of his products are most important - not to him - but to his customers, and
- How could he use that knowledge to set himself apart from his competition?
Mind the gap
Without differentiating your product or service, you risk going unnoticed in an ever-expanding marketplace. One place to start is to discover the gap between what you are giving your customers and what they want.
Your goal should be to learn how to redefine your products key attributes in the minds of your customers. At EMyth, we break key product attributes into six broad categories:
- Functionality: What your product must do to completely satisfy your target market. Does it work as promised, or does its performance sometimes fail? How many racing bikes would your bicycle store sell if the frames were heavy and bulky?
- Sensory Impact: What does your product look like, feel like, or taste like? Does its appearance, texture, or flavor fully meet customer expectations? How many patients would come to your medical practice if the waiting room seating was very cramped and the wallpaper was peeling?
- Conscious Associations: The logical, rational judgments and conclusions that the conscious mind is likely to reach regarding this product. This is personal for each individual, but if you understand your target market, you can determine whether they generally perceive your product as safe and reliable...or cutting edge and risky.
- Unconscious Associations: The emotional responses that unconscious associations about the product are likely to trigger. Some colors, shapes, scents, and experiences can unconsciously attract or repel us. Ice cream that is inky black in color may be a visual repellant; a day spa with that has a fit-looking staff and is decorated in spring colors and may be an attraction as it is unconsciously perceived as healthy and relaxing.
- Pricing and Value: How the price of the product is perceived, and whether the customer considers that the product is worth the price. For some customer segments the lowest priced product is seen as cheap and unreliable, for others it is perceived as a great deal.
- Access and Convenience: How easily can customers access your product or service, and is it convenient for them to access it? Will customers rush to get to your dry cleaning shop by 5:30 p.m. if your competitor stays open until 8:00 p.m.?
Creating a more successful business
Ben took these lessons to heart as he worked to improve and differentiate his products and his business. He developed a short survey to query his customers about what attributes were most important to them, and found that many only purchased donuts "occasionally" because they felt "guilty" about eating something that was "bad for them." When they did buy donuts, they did so because they loved how "fresh and delicious" the donuts tasted, and because they wanted to "treat themselves" to something sweet. They also said that they wouldn't make a special trip or "go out of their way" just to buy a donut, and that they only stopped by when they were in the neighborhood. Armed with this information, Ben began the process of discovering new ways to redefine these attributes in the minds of his customers.
First, he decided to expand his product range to include a wider choice of bakery offerings, such as cookies and tarts, so that customers could come to his shop to indulge in a variety of sweet treats, and not just to satisfy their craving for donuts. Next, realizing that customers also wanted bakery items that were not guilt-inducing, he developed a line of reduced-fat donuts, cookies, and tarts that were not only lower in fat and calories, but also still tasted fresh and delicious.
He then dedicated a section in the bakery case especially for these new items, and placed a colorful sign in his window to entice people who were passing by. He also started to allow customers to pre-order bakery items for special occasions, which helped to position "A Bakers Dozen" as a destination shop, and not just somewhere to impulsively stop in occasionally for a treat.
Achieving amazing results
Ben was able to differentiate his offerings in ways that appealed to his target market in the categories of sensory impact, unconscious associations, conscious associations, and access/convenience. The result of his efforts to date? His sales increased by 30%, and his business continues to grow.
By discovering the gap between what he was offering his customers and what they wanted—and by challenging his thinking about why people buy and how they get emotional gratification—Ben was able to focus on delivering bakery goods with attributes that both meet and exceed his customers needs. Not only that, but his offerings are now recognizably different from those of the other donut shops and bakeries in his town that do not offer these key attributes.