No one cares if you’re different

“It isn’t different enough?”

To which my next question is “different from whom and why do you care?” Because a customer doesn’t care if you’re different. What they do care about is whether you can solve their problem – whatever that may be.

I often refer to differentiation as a myth. In today’s business landscape, meaningful differentiation is more elusive than the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Nearly everything is taken. Where differentiation does exist, it is in slivers, cracks light that shine through in some small aspect of the business. And those slivers are all you need.

However, for many organisations a sliver isn’t big and shiny enough to satisfy them – which is where ego comes to play. Too often that search for differentiation is about someone’s need to feel their business is unique rather than a business’s need to be so.

Now if you’re one of the unicorns who have found something completely new, by all means shout it from the roof and take the bow. But for the rest of us, we need to put our desire for differentiations aside. And instead spend some time understanding how we solve the customer’s problem.

The good news is there are some simple questions you can ask that will help you get there:

What do you do? How do you do it? Why do you do it?

Like so much I talk about, differentiation comes from inside your organisation. It is the result of the things you do, things that are in the answers to those three questions.

Trying to manufacture differentiation to meet some perceived external market gap is not sustainable and leaves you open to it being copied by your competitors (if you can see the gap, they can too).

And although being aware of your competitors is good business, too much focus on them just takes your attention away from what you care about and believe.

Are you the fastest, cheapest or best at what you do? Are your products unlike anything out there? Is your customer service up there with the Ritz Carlton? Are your stores great places to hang out? Are you the only game in town?

There are plenty of slivers and combinations of slivers to go around. So check your ego at the door and get started on those questions.

Your customers have problems waiting. Of course, because you’ve been working hard on your purpose, you already know the answer to why!

Michel is an Independent Brand Thinker and Adviser dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. You can find Michel at michelhogan.com or you can follow her on Twitter @michelhogan

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