May 18, 2009

Do You Dare To Stand Out From The Crowd?

Buyers are lost in a sea of sameness?

Standing out from the crowd is not easy. Well at least that is the conclusion that we have formed from a review of dozens of competitors across a multiplicity of sectors – ranging from aircraft inventory solutions to life and pensions policy administration platforms.

Over the past 24 months we have conducted competitor analysis for dozens of our clients – a important step in helping them to review their sales proposition. In search of the answer to that million dollar question ‘why should we buy from you and not your competitor’ we trawled competitor websites, downloaded brochures, viewed webinars, read analyst reports and much more besides.

For almost every industry we analyzed the result was sameness and boredom. It is very difficult in most industries to tell one competitor from another.

Why Is Everybody Making the Same Promises?

Let us take IT network inventory solutions as an example. Almost all the big vendors offer solutions to enable organisations to create an inventory of the hardware and software on their networks. But, how easy is it to choose between vendors and their solutions. Well, as it turns out – not easy at all.

We analysed the top 6 vendors in the space globally, the results were both surprising and disappointing. In fact, so much so that we could hardly tell one from another. Of the 13 variables used to compare the solutions of the different companies, only two of the criteria showed any differences between any of the supplier companies. In short all the vendors are making the same claims about their products, including reporting, detail level, speed, and so on. That is no doubt as confusing for buyers as it was for us.

Was our client disappointed by the lack of any clear difference between their offering and those of the competition? Well, no actually. The result triggered a lot of soul searching and consideration, and the discovery of 3 unique characteristics of its product previously not highlighted by the company. Its launched a new website and suite of sales material communicating these unique advantages.

Avoid Cloning Your Competitors

Imitation may be generally considered to be the sincerest form of flattery, but cloning a competitor makes no sense. As 6 of the key global competitors in the policy administration platform space have shown cloning happens across, even the most established industries.

All six vendors, many of whom are major multi-nationals, are promising the same benefits (time to market, cutting administration costs, etc.), as well as the same features (scalable, multi-language, etc.). In fact, the degree of sameness was such that it is almost as if all the websites and brochures for all 6 vendors were written by the same person, or people.

This is even a clearer example of the opportunities that exist in so many industries to stand out from competitors and to make it easier for competitors to choose. When and if you do find a company that says something different it is like a breath of fresh air.

Daring to Stand Out From the Crowd

Why are companies afraid to stand out from the crowd? Could it be that some are reluctant to risk alienating some customers by taking a position that is different to the rest of the market? Well, many dozens of competitors later, we make a plea. Stand out. Shout out. Be different.

Pick a point of difference that is important to a certain strand of the market and make your stand on it. The alternative is to be lost in a sea of sameness. Remember it is easier for the smaller company to adopt a more focused and nimble approach to how it positions itself in the minds of buyers.

More Encouragement For Those Who Want to Stand Out

Here are some other observations from our review of competitors across many industries. Again they are very heartening for the company that wants to stand apart:

· Most competitor marketing materials are boring – the standard of web sites, etc. is dull and drab, both in terms of the content and its presentation. That includes photo stock pictures that never seem to look like any business people we know, to the traditional adjective laden and fluffy marketing copy. So, if you want to stand out, bring your website to life. It does not have to be boring and obscure.

· The means of communication is still very much traditional, with the adoption of blogging, forums and other newer vehicles for communication only slowly being adopted in many industries. So, if you want to stand out - make sure your website has a blog.

· It can be hard to distinguish the proposition of many companies, it takes many clicks and much reading to determine exactly what promises they are making. Most are more comfortable presenting technical feature-rich information than talking about the results that their solutions deliver. So, if you want to stand out, tell prospects exactly what you can do for their business, using language that they understand and backing it up with stories and references for what you have achieved for others.

No comments: