These Are Not Business Differentiators

BY Liz Wendling
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A major danger to your business is the inability to define what sets you apart from your competitors. The crowded environment that professionals face today is intense, and it has never been more challenging to attract clients and close new business. These changes are so significant that your business won’t survive without true differentiation.

If prospective clients can’t perceive the distinctions between you and your competition, how do you expect them to notice you, remember you and hire you? Most professionals cannot articulate why they are exceptional. Therefore, they are forced to compete on price.

Today’s savvy consumers are confused, and they don’t know how to tell one professional from the next. Your products or services appear the same as others in your industry, and you're viewed as a commodity.

To gain a substantial advantage, you must stand out from your competitors and be different in a way that matters to the consumer. What you think makes you different and unique may be keeping you in the commodity trap that you work so hard to avoid.

The differentiators that many people use make them look and sound like everyone else. They attempt to differentiate by making the same declarations that countless other professionals make. In other words, they water down their value proposition.

The following statements are not differentiators:

These value propositions are inherently valueless. Continued use of this language or any variation will secure your spot in the commodity trap.

  • Our company has more than 75 years of experience combined
  • We appreciate our clients and take the time to listen to their needs
  • We have the skill and compassion necessary to fight on your behalf
  • We are proactive and dedicated to the best possible outcome
  • We pride ourselves on our ability to be responsive and cost-effective
  • We are a group of highly trained and skilled professionals
  • We are the best of the best
  • We offer compassionate guidance and care about you and your goals
  • My firm has won some of the largest cases and settlements in history
  • We bring passion and commitment when we represent you
  • We provide one-​on-​one attention to all of our clients
  • We are committed to walking you through every step of the process

Most companies at some point have laid claim to at least one of these bullet points. There is not even a hint of differentiation or a whiff of uniqueness in these statements, because every other professional in town is rattling off the same list. Prospective clients don’t take these statements seriously because every one is a baseline expectation.

This once-​dependable method of distinction will backfire if you rely on this type of language to differentiate yourself from your competition.

When you fail to differentiate yourself, you fail to prove your value.

Who defines value? The receiver, not the giver.

The burden of proof is on you. You must contribute value to your prospective client’s definition, not yours. You may think people care about your ability to listen, your care and compassion or your cost-​effective solutions, but what they truly care about is how those things relate to them. They care about themselves.

Developing a unique message is not easy, but it is necessary. To effectively market your company and sell your products or services, you need to get out of the box and craft a message that will not only set you apart but will also become recognizable and synonymous with your brand. This is your only way out of the commodity trap.

Liz Wendling is the author of two books (and counting): The Unstoppable Business Woman and Everyone Sells Something, a columnist for Colorado Biz Magazine, and one of the first nationally credentialed facilitators for Napoleon Hill Mastermind groups. Learn more at lizwendling​.com.