Marketing Differentiation Strategies

The old cliche “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” is well known, but often ignored for various reasons. After all, for a long time the definition of success was to get an education, get a good job, and raise a family. Of course very few people finish the end of that story, which is apparently to keep raising your family, showing up at work until you retire and eventually die.  No wonder so many people live life wondering, “Is this all there is?”

The millennial age and the ‘gig economy era have started to push-back on those ideas. Beyond pushing back, they break the doors wide open with new opportunities to reinvent the meaning of success and earning a living. Many millennials are forgoing the traditional paths, and focusing on jobs and careers that align with their core values. If you are one of the estimated 80% of people dread going to work each day, now is the perfect time to rethink your career and profession. Why do I know it’s the right time? Because there is no guarantee of how many tomorrows you will have, so the best time to start doing what you love is always now.

So what does this have to do with marketing differentiation strategies?

Simon Sinek’s popular TED talk about the “Golden Circle” and “Start with Why” puts it this way:

People don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it. The goal is not to do business with everyone who needs what you have — the goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe… The goal is not to hire people who need a job, the goal is to hire people who believe what you believe.

Marketing differentiation strategies are extremely important for all businesses. The need to clearly define points of differentiation is especially true if you are in a profession where the average consumer (and sometimes the professionals themselves) view the services as a commodity. Where the perception is that one professional is likely as good, or as bad, as another. This often occurs in industries that are heavily regulated and uniform, like financial services, real estate, and insurance industries.

I was once advising a newly launched wealth management and financial advisory firm on some marketing concepts related to differentiation and relevancy. One of the advisors said, “Well… it’s different in our industry because what we offer is really a commodity.”  Let me just jump ahead a bit, and tell you that if you view what you do as a commodity — you are in the wrong business.

So how does one develop a marketing differentiation strategy in a market where everyone is seemingly doing the same things, bound by the same regulations, where there is ubiquitous access to the same information, or regulated pricing?  The answer will be different for each person or firm.

Another question that Simon Sinek poses in his talk is, “Why do you get up out of bed every morning, and why should anyone care?” The first part of the question, why you get up out of bed every morning, is really asking “What do you believe?” Since people don’t buy what you do, they buy what you believe, knowing what you believe will help you articulate why you do what you do.

So the more regulated or uniform the industry, the more your points of differentiation will need to reflect who you are, and why you do what you do. Those beliefs in turn will shape your company culture, and impact the experience the customer has at every point of contact. From your marketing materials, your website, and most importantly what clients tell others when referring your business.

The second part of the question about why you get out of bed every morning, is “why should anyone care?” This question really speaks to the importance of being relevant to your target audience. Remember,  the goal isn’t to offer your services to everyone who needs it, but to offer your services to those who believe what you believe.  One of the hardest lessons I had to learn was how to walk away from clients who did not believe what we believe. In fact, it has become so part of our values, that our home page leads off with why we do what we do.

Next, your messaging needs to clearly communicate how that differentiation will directly benefit your audience.  In today’s digital marketing world, there is an ever increasing scarcity of time, so marketing differentiation strategies needs to be increasingly targeted (to the right audience) and increasingly relevant (explicit in how their lives will be improved.)

Videos To Help Kick-Start your Marketing Differentiation Strategies

There is so much more to this line of marketing philosophy. Below are some great videos I’ve compiled to kick-start your thinking about how you can differentiate by thinking about why you do what you do, and thinking about how you shape your business based on that.  I recommend watching the videos with an open mind.  After all, the issue might not be differentiation, it might be finding a different path altogether and redefining your definition of success.

Start With Why – Simon Sinek

Do What You Like, Like What You Do – Bert Jacobs

Have the balls to follow your dreams – Diana David