What is a Competitive Differentiator?
Competitive differentiation is the strategy used by brands to distinguish themselves from their competitors. The competitive differentiators are key parameters that help buyers distinguish your brand from others.
As the name suggests, the function of differentiators is to create a clear line between the desirable attributes of your products with others. Consider this, you have built a great product, now you have to effectively market it. How do you articulate that your product is better than your competitors?
Here’s how - you take the help of competitive differentiators. These key differentiators are technical aspects of the product that sets it apart. It combines the product knowledge and leverages it to inform a marketing message.
So the messaging basically will translate how the so-and-so aspect of your product will help solve customer problems. It will also give your customers a reason to choose your product over your competitor.
To technically put, a competitive differentiation strategy has two components:
- The features that your competition lacks or aren’t focusing on
- A strategy and message to promote these attributes
The rationale behind using a competitive differentiator is this - all buyers really care about is getting value for their money. If the product solves their unique problems and adds value to them then they will be prompted to buy it.
What marketers need to do is to relay the information on how the product attributes uniquely add value to the customer. Competitive differentiators can be used to do just that.
Why use Competitive Differentiation?
A consumer buying a product is bombarded with thousands of different choices. Although many companies strive to reinvent the wheel and create a completely unique product, it rarely happens. Most products in the market are more or less the same.
So how does a customer decide which product to buy? Well, most consumers opt for products with high name recognition, or that are extremely cheap.
But what if you are a new up-and-coming brand? This is where competitive differentiation can help. A product that differentiates itself from competitors in a meaningful way has a better chance of attracting attention.
Think of this, how many times have you consulted a review site before you decide to buy a product? Most review sites compare products on key parameters and see how they fare. This is the exact information you broadcast through competitive differentiation, but it’s done through marketing channels.
How to implement Competitive Differentiation?
Now you are probably wondering, how do I implement an effective competitive differentiation strategy? It’s simple, you have to know two things -
- Know your Customers
- Know your Competition
Once you have identified who your target customer and audience are, the next step is to get to know them completely. You need to research all about your customer and competitor.
Customer research will tell you about your customer’s exact needs. And competitor research will tell you where your competitors lack and what they are excellent at.
You can then develop differentiated value propositions that will support your competitive differentiation strategy. Here the goal is to create competitive differentiators, that
- Focus on customer’s point of view
- Take advantage of areas where competitors lack
- Focus on the value proposition
Brands can do this by taking advantage of customer feedback and testimonials and the competitor research data available. The goal here is to position the competitive differentiators as attributes that are at par with core product attributes and features if not beyond.
In a competitive marketplace, most products will provide the same features, but a set of strong differentiators and enticing messaging will put you across the finish line.
Finally, as mentioned, a compelling message that highlights all these points is what puts competitive differentiation into action. The right message subtly ties together the technical and the sentimental narrative - a key to increasing brand awareness and loyalty.
3 Questions for vetting differentiators
Now you have a list of differentiators and you know how to implement competitive differentiation. But how can you tell if the competitive differentiators you have listed are the correct ones?
Here are 3 questions you can ask yourself to vet any potential differentiator.
- Is it True?
- Is it Relevant?
- Is it Provable?
Test 1: Is it True?
Your differentiators need to be accurate and more importantly true. A dishonest marketing message based on a false differentiator can be easily disapproved. This will only prove to be a liability to your brand. So firstly, check if all your differentiators are true in the most rigorous sense.
Test 2: Is it Relevant?
A true competitive differentiator that is not relevant to your customer, will not have the effect you would hope for. This step makes sure you have the customer’s point of view at the forefront while deciding differentiators.
Test 3: Is it Provable?
Provability is an important factor for any true parameter. You claim that something is true won’t convince everybody. But if they can replicate the results you are offering and prove the value proposition claims - then there you go - you have a strong set of differentiators in your hand. Use them wisely!
Examples of Weak/Strong Competitive Differentiators
Naturally, all differentiators are not great. So we have listed down some examples of weak and strong differentiators.
Here are some examples of weak differentiators:
- We put our clients first
- We deliver exceptional customer service
- We have the best talent in the market
- We have a passionate team behind us
Here are some examples of strong differentiators:
- We are the largest firm in x location
- We have x years of experience in the healthcare industry
- We have exclusively worked with x credible companies
- We provide customizable services