So - what sets you apart? It’s probably the single most important question that any organisation in a competitive market needs to answer. It’s the thing you want your customers to say about you. It’s the thing you want your prospects to think about you.
And yet, in all too many organisations, if you were to ask 10 different employees, you are likely to get 10 different answers. Don’t assume that your organisation is immune. Just to be sure, you might want to ask the next ten employees you speak to the same question.
Get your employees on message first
If you get the same consistent message back from every one of them, you’ll be in a minority. This doesn’t mean, by the way, that every answer needs to be word perfect. But the same ideas and the same sentiments need to come across consistently every time.
If you’re in a high-value B2B environment, with lengthy buying cycles and multiple customer touch-points, no matter how much money you spend on marketing, if you can’t achieve internal message consistency, you can guarantee that most of that budget will have been wasted.
Different comes before better
This isn’t about being better. It’s about being different. And it’s about being different in a way that your prospects find distinctive and memorable, and which motivates them to want to learn more about why and how you do what you do.
It’s more about what you help your customers achieve than it is about the nitty-gritty of what you actually sell or do. It’s about why you’ve chosen to follow the path that you’re embarked on, and not about some fatuous mission or vision statement that’s riddled with marketing-speak that any other competitor could have said - and probably has.
Start with why
As Simon Sinek pointed out in an inspirational TED video, when outstanding people, and outstanding organisations, tell their stories, they start with why, and not with what, or how. They stand out from the crowd by having a distinctive voice and a different point of view - and by using language their customers and prospects can relate to.
They are - literally - remarkable, and with good reason. The most valuable position in any market is not the organisation that claims to have the biggest historic market share, it’s the organisation with the fresh perspective that the most switched-on customers are turning to today. Momentum trumps history, every time.
Developing a distinctive voice
So - how can you develop your own distinctive voice? How can you intrigue potential prospects to the point where they are determined to learn more? How can you turn your existing customers into raving, enthusiastic advocates?
Firstly, cut out all the marketing speak and techno-babble that might have been foisted on you over the years by marketers who know no better. Make a determined effort to look, sound and feel different from your competitors.
Develop your own perspective, and your own way of describing your organisation’s role in life. Start with why and for whom rather than what and how. Listen carefully to how your most enthusiastic customers describe you, and the reasons they chose you.
Stories, not pitches
Tune in to how your most successful sales people tell your story. Make sure it sounds like a anecdote and not like a pitch. Differentiate yourselves through the approach you have taken before you describe the products or services you deliver.
Name your unique strengths and capabilities in ways that would make it difficult for a competitor even if - heaven forefend - they were smart enough or motivated enough to play copycat with your messages.
Be sure to watch Simon Sinek’s video. Think of the companies you most admire. Spend time with the people who you feel most instinctively “get it”. Commit yourselves to coming up with something simple and memorable that intrigues enough for people to want to learn more, and make sure that you’ve got the second act ready when - as you surely hope they will do - they ask you to tell them more.
So - what really sets you apart? Are you sure? And does everybody else "get it"?