Differentiation Through Positioning

Too often, clients come to me with a particular marketing project in mind and a wonderful vision of success. The good news is that they have this wonderful vision of success. The bad news is that they attribute this vision of success to nothing other than the tactical implementation of something marketing-related—a flyer, a brochure, or website, for example.

Does this sound familiar?

“We’re starting a new business and need a website. From what we’re seeing of our competition, we think we can blow them away by creating something that is technologically more advanced and visually appealing.”

– OR –

“We need a new brochure—something that can be updated with our new office address and mailed to prospects.”

My reply, “Outstanding! I’d be happy to assist you. Who is your target audience? What sets your product, service and company apart from the competition? What common frustration or challenge are you solving? What does your brand stand for? What promise does it make? What personality do you convey?”

A typical response reveals that there is no real interest in going through an exercise of uncovering this information. “We just want a brochure or website!”

Nice thought. Wrong idea.

Here’s why?

Differentiation through competitive positioning is critical!

Why is it critical?

Because there are literally hundreds and thousands of competitors competing for your customers every day.

  • Consumers easily seeking price comparisons on the Internet
  • They are empowered to find anything and everything they want themselves (analysts, experts, peers, competitors)
  • Today the average person is bombarded with over 3,000 ads per day, with the capability of taking in only 100 messages per day
  • They are also more cynical and don’t want to “sold to”

The only way to avoid being commoditized and using the vicious practice of price slashing and cost reduction to turn a profit is to create a strong brand that provides real customer benefits. This gives you a chance to compete on more than just price and volume.

In addition, your customers are responding to stories that are compelling, engaging, and solve a particular need or frustration. They are seeking relationships, ones they can have an emotional connection with…thus, the reason that social media has been so successful for some many businesses (when used correctly). 

Consider this example: Mill Creek, WA opened a brand new cupcake store that sells…you guessed it, cupcakes. As a consumer, I have the option to make them myself, buy them from the grocery store, Costco, or a pluthera of other cupcake stores. But, what draws me to this particular cupcake store? Every cupcake is made from one of “grandma’s” old recipes using natural, local products. In addition, a portion of every purchase goes to fund cancer research, because grandma lost her life to the horrible disease and they’re hoping for a cure.

I’m emotionally invested. I want to follow their success. I want to contribute to their success and their cause. I want to indulge in their cupcakes’ goodness. I’m going to choose “grandma’s cupcakes” over Costco, even if it means driving a few extra miles.

What did this cupcake company do well?

They nailed their strategic position:

  • They identified their ideal target customer—Women between the ages 25-45 with kids who use natural products, buy locally and make more than $50,000/year. People in this age group are on social networks like Twitter and FB, they will shop in green stores like Whole Foods.
  • They uncovered a common frustration— Need for local, natural baking products that taste good and are affordably priced
  • Committed to a unique point of differentiation—Unique cupcake designs made from grandma’s family recipes that fund cancer research (give back to the community)


It is by creating a powerful brand for your products and services that you create long-term sustainability, a prosperous future and healthy profits.

What Can You Do Today to Create Differentiation?

  1. Ask yourself – who are my best customers (profile) – Why? Because you don’t want to appeal to everyone. You’ll fall into the trap of being a commodity.
  2. Discover what your unique customer values most about your products/services – through research
  3. Uncover a common frustration among your customers
  4. Research your competitors – compare service offerings
  5. Commit to a unique point of differentiation

Remember, among the thousands of ads, people respond to messages that engage their emotions. They are seeking relationships with  people and companies who understand their business and their challenges. They’re looking for recommendations and evidence that you can help them.

Don’t bury your message in a “one size fits all” approach.

Revisit your passions.

Know your customer and their needs.

Ask yourself “How are you going to be unique and different?”

All comments are welcome.