A Q&A with Mike Gospe (Part 3): on competitive differentiation

Recently, I was interviewed by the editors of DemandGen Report. Here’s part 3 of 5.

  • In The Marketing High Ground you discuss competitive differentiation, which every organization is challenged with. Can you expand on what it means to truly differentiate products and services? How should organizations internally map out this process?

It’s easy for marketers to become frustrated with trying to find a unique competitive differentiator. But, I’m a firm believer that there are always meaningful differences that can be found. Even if the product’s attributes are generic, there are opportunities to differentiate based on brand, reputation, geographic location, green practices, etc. In addition, when products are generic, some companies decide to differentiate at the corporate or brand level instead of the product level.  Bottom line: there are always possibilities. All we need is a bit of creativity to sort out the options. 

The best place to start the internal dialog about finding then articulating a true differentiator is by using the technique I call “firsts, bests, and onlys.”  Gather a few sales, marketing, and product experts in a room and ask the following:

  • Were we first to market? Which features or benefits can we claim to be first in providing?
  • What do we do better than the competition? Which features and benefits can we claim to be the best at delivering?
  • What is truly unique about our solution? What aspects of our solution can we claim to be the only provider of?

This is an important topic and the answers may not be easy to find, but answers are out there. It takes patience and honesty to navigate this discussion.

*** Read part 1 on the dangers of being seduced by new marketing tools

*** Read part 2 on why market success requires having a focused positioning statement

*** Read part 4 on mapping messages to the customer’s buying process

*** Read part 5 on tips for communicating your marketing plan internally

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