Every time I speak with tech entrepreneurs around ‘differentiation,’ the conversation goes towards ‘the competition.’ “Here’s how we are different from competitor X or Y.” Sometimes, it’s even spelled out on their websites, but we often address it in conversations with customers. But what if we’d start to talk about it in terms of “Here’s how we make the difference for you” and forget about ‘the competition’ altogether?
Forget the competition
Talking about the competition is not your task. We’re doing nobody a favor doing so. It reflects poorly on us (bashing), and more importantly, the way we talk about it is often totally out of the context of what the customer aims to achieve. So bringing the competition in the mix likely brings you further away from your objective, rather than closer.
The challenge is our ‘competitive’ mindset. We are up against ‘them,’ and we believe our customer needs to understand what’s our competitive advantage compared to ‘them.’
But do they? Are they after finding out how you are different from ‘them’ or are they after understanding which, of all the alternatives they have, help them solve their problem in the most valuable way?
Who are ‘the competition’ anyway?
I deliberately used the word ‘alternative’ – because that’s what your customer has. They have more options than just ‘the others.’ They can build something themselves. They can do nothing at all. They can use a range of standard tools to achieve what they are after – as said: There are many ways to Rome, and it’s your job to give them one that is an experience they’d love to embark on.
Forget the word Differentiation.
So what if we’d remove the word ‘Differentiation’ from our memory and replace it with ‘Making a difference.’ Using those words by default makes us focus on the magic combo of ‘the customer and us’ rather than ‘us versus the competition.’
It makes us think hard about how we can help our customer make a difference
It forces us to listen and fully understand their individual needs, what difference they seek to make, and why that is important to them or their business.
It forces us to listen and fully understand what hurdles they currently face doing so and how that makes them feel
It forces us to be the guide and make them the hero, rather than taking that hero role ourselves by trying to look better than the competition.
All of this is about driving value up, rather than ending up with a lower price point by facilitating an ‘apple to apple’ comparison and ultimately ending up in a discount battle.
Resourcefulness and trust
Changing our vocabulary will help us become more resourceful and find new creative ways to grow trust with our ideal customers within our target market.
It will make us more resourceful because it will become clear very early on if we exceed expectations in helping this customer make a difference with our solution. If not – we can qualify out and not waste both our time. Let them enjoy ‘the competition.’
It will grow trust because we’re getting very concrete in what the journey will look like to go from ‘what is’ to ‘what can be.’ This strengthens our value proposition, and we can back up our promise all the way because we come from a position of strength.
We’ll attract better customers – customers that can and will become our advocates. They’re the fuel to grow momentum.