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Differentiate or die

February 25, 2009
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You can’t afford to be humdrum in slow economic times. By that I mean that you look like every other business that does a good job. If you position yourself as just another “car detailing business” then your service becomes a commodity, and the only way to differentiate commodities is by lowing prices. A business based off of beating the competition on price won’t survive long term.

A few years ago Seth Godin wrote a small book that should be a paradigm shifter for any small business that wants to compete in a crowded marketplace. In this book Purple Cow, Godin sites examples of businesses that have established themselves with a USP (Unique Selling Proposition) that makes people not only remember, but talk about it with others. What you want to give them is an incredible experience.

One of the many examples he sites is the story of a remarkable butcher in Italy. Now, there are thousands of butchers in Italy, but there is only one that people come from all over the world to visit. His name is Dario Cecchini and he had been featured in a number of guidebooks and magazines across the country. Is it because his meat is any better?

I’m going to guess that it’s not. What he does have however, is a style that is all his own. Cecchini creates a remarkable experience that his customers remember. If you buy meat from his shop, you might hear him quoting Dante and rhapsodizing about the Fiorentina beefsteak. Cecchini even staged a mock funeral and buried a steak when the European Union banned the sale of steak with bones.

A friend was telling me this past week about a small cruise his client took down to the Caribbean that defines remarkable. The yachts only have about a 15 man crew so the number of passengers is small. But before a single passenger boards the ship, every crew member knows their likes and dislikes, what their favorite wine and cigar is. Each passenger is studied like a textbook by the crew so that their needs are met without fail while on the trip.

Cost of the cruise for a one week trip: $50,000. The lesson? People pay more for remarkable experiences.

Implement a powerful brand

What made Starbucks so popular before their brand started popping up at every street corner? Was it the taste of the coffee or the experience of going into a coffee shop and drinking high priced coffee while getting some work done on your laptop?

Creating a remarkable experience is important for any business to survive in a down economy. How can you implement this strategy into your business? I’m not suggesting you quote Dante to your customers, but I am suggesting you create an experience that your customers will talk about when they’re conversing with friends and family.

Try to find out their likes and dislikes. At the least find out their birthdays and send them a birthday card every year. Almost no other business does this.

The name of the game is to differentiate in order to survive.

Jonathan Taylor is the owner of Strategic Marketing Solutions. You can reach Taylor at www.JonathanTaylorBlog.com.

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