4 tips on differentiating from your competition

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Contributor, Sell to Win

Let’s all agree that differentiating yourself from your competition is one of the most important things you can do as a B2B organization. 

In the information age, potential customers don’t have to browse a phone book, make a call, talk to a salesperson, read a brochure, or drive to some remote location to find an alternative to your product. Nowadays, all they have to do is sit exactly where they are and click their mouse button a few times.

So, yes—in a time when it’s possible for shoppers to view competing solutions literally right next to each other, standing out from the rest is a requirement for success.

Like this successful penguin.

Three ways to differentiate

You create a gap between yourself and your competitors in three different ways.

First, you can launch a product with better features. Find out what other businesses in this space are doing and design something better. Easier said than done, of course, especially if you’re competing against market leaders with decades of experience and a wealth of resources.

Second, you can provide exceptional pre and post-sales support around this product. Not only in terms of customer service but also a frictionless sign-up process and in-product onboarding

Thirdly, you communicate these differences in a clear, elegant, and unique way.

In this article, we’ll be talking about the second and third points. We’ll discuss four tactics you can use on your website to show people that you’re different from the other companies they’re considering.

Let’s get cracking.

1. Offer a high-touch sales option

Nowadays, marketing and sales are all about automation. This isn’t a bad thing. The fewer touch-points between you and your customers, the lower your customer acquisition costs. It makes sense to automate.

Except when it doesn’t.

Some products, especially in the SaaS or B2B space, just cry out for a human touch in the sales funnel. And if virtually none of your competitors are willing to offer it, you’ll be doing your chances of a conversion massive favors if you offer an in-person sales call.

If this is a differentiation route you choose to take, shine a great big spotlight on it. You’re already going through the effort of having a salesperson available for these calls; the last thing you want is for this offer to go unnoticed.

Take a look at how payment scheduling company, Finli, positions this throughout its website. You can go virtually nowhere on their website without seeing the clear call to action “Request a demo.”

Image via finli.com

These words shine out of the screen like a beacon. For anyone interested in Finli’s product, the temptation to click on this link will be real.

Offering personal interaction in a highly digitized landscape is a terrific way to differentiate yourself. Even if a demo doesn’t result in an instant conversion, your product will always be the one that has a human face (or voice) attached to it.

2. Sell solutions, not features

Most brands’ online marketing messages revolve around unique value propositions—as they should. When a visitor arrives at your site, you want them to instantly know what you’re selling.

But many companies still fall into the trap of thinking that people want to buy “things.” As a result, their marketing messages are often about what these objects are and what they do. 

Sure, a clever feature will absolutely make your product stand out. But, this often only happens after the user has used the product—in other words, after they’ve become a customer.

When a prospective customer arrives at your site, they’re not necessarily looking for a feature. What they’re really after are the rewards that your product will bring into their lives.

Essentially, people buy features. They buy the impact of the features. Benefits. Solutions to their problems. The new reality that will come from using the features. Focus on these things, instead of features. 

If your website’s marketing messages aren’t laser-focused on communicating what these solutions are, you’re still selling a “thing.” And there are plenty of things to compete with yours.

Let’s get practical. Your site’s hero header—the most visible thing on any of its landing pages—has to instantly communicate the real-world rewards someone will experience when they become your customer.

Obviously, this message will broadly refer to what your product does, but the main thrust of it must be what this MEANS for the customer.

In my mind, Proof is one of the best examples of a brand selling a solution rather than a feature.

Splashed on their homepage, as clear as daylight, is the following line of text: 

“Boost your website conversions by 15% in under 15 minutes.”

Image via useproof.com

Instantly the site visitor knows the reward of becoming a Proof customer. And every single competitor’s marketing message will be measured against a claim this meaningful.

3. Offer exceptional social proof

If you’re operating in the B2B space, credible testimonials are as necessary for your business as oxygen is to your lungs. 

You need to be able to illustrate that your product is trusted by reputable companies. And most brands feel that a well-designed testimonials page populated with relatable, trustworthy content is the way to go in this regard.

When a specific approach becomes this commonplace, however, it almost always offers clever companies a chance to differentiate themselves.

Think about it—what’s a fresh alternative to testimonials? A way to go beyond the minimum in showing how your product has changed the lives of your customers.

The answer? More detail on successful implementation. A lot more detail.

But very few companies have the resources to go into this much detail when documenting a customer engagement. 

Don’t get me wrong; case studies are fantastic—especially if you’re looking to land an enterprise client. But creating them is hard work.

Photoslurp shows us some nice middle ground between detailed case studies and your basic one-line testimonial.

The UGC integration platform has a section on its site dedicated to “customer stories.” Each one of these is a simple but extremely insightful look into the relationship between the brand and its customer. 

Image via photoslurp.com

They seldom exceed 500 words, and they typically include specific metrics revealing the success of the engagement, along with detailed quotes from the customer.

And, of course, if you’ve worked with some big name clients, show it off. Real Thread, for instance, which provides a custom t-shirt service, has worked with some instantly recognizable brands. This gives them big time social proof for smaller businesses wondering if it’s a reputable service. 

Image via realthread.com

4. Know your audience and speak to them

Many brands make the mistake of using a written and visual language that appeals to as broad an audience as possible. They think that by casting their net wide enough, they’ll attract the maximum number of customers.

This may work. But it’s also super likely to consign your brand to the “just the same as all the rest” pile. 

Companies that use overly generic messaging often do so because they don’t have a solid view of their buyer personas. This is a critical part of developing any marketing strategy. Overlook it at your peril!

If you’ve done your homework and you know who you’re trying to reach with your on-site messaging, it’s possible for you to start using language, design, and imagery that differentiates you from your competitors.

Let me emphasize this. Don’t try to get quirky, cute, overly academic, irreverent, or any other adjective you can think of before your research shows whether that will resonate with your target audience.

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In closing

The great thing about differentiating your brand from competitors is that it carries benefits that go beyond mere differentiation.

One way or another, every single one of the four tactics we’ve talked about here will make your product more attractive to your target audience. Even if your website is never compared to one of your competitors, implementing these solutions won’t be a wasted effort.

So try not to think of this as purely an exercise in differentiation. You’re investing in your brand’s appeal. You’re going the extra mile to make your company and its products as engaging as possible.

And this is always a good thing. 😉

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