Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Why Most Companies Look And Sound The Same (And The Customer Decides On Price)

Everyone is saying the same thing - and no one is listening.

That's the reality in most industries. And when this happens the only way to choose is on price.

In this situation it's tempting to throw money at marketing in the hopes of differentiating yourself. But if you're not saying anything different - then no one will be listening.

And this applies whether you're spending £40 a month on promoting yourself at a networking meeting, or £4,000,000 a month on cross media marketing campaigns.

It sounds simple - and obvious. So why do most companies fail to stand out? It's because they aren't distinctive.

Most companies know they need to be distinctive, but they give it precious little to thought.

So what can we learn from the companies that have managed to stand out from the crowd - those companies that we'd immediately spring to mind for a certain product or service?

The one thing they all have in common is a unique voice.

Roderic Michelson is a Company Growth expert at Aralex Consulting. He believes you can learn a lot by looking at those companies that really do stand out.

For example:

1) If you are a chocolate lover, there are few outlets where you can buy higher quality chocolate - the boutique chocolatiers. But what about daily chocolate? From a labour of love Green & Black grew into a strong brand riding on a smart USP: organic, luxurious but affordable, ethically-produced chocolate.

2) With a loyal following at home, built over 300 years, Twinings is one of the quintessentially British brands. It keeps growing abroad and it's now sold in over 100 countries. What makes people in non-tea drinking countries choose Twinnings when they want tea? Their USP: Proper tea steeped in tradition, a little taste of Britain.

3) When was the last time you made a fresh juice yourself or mixed a smoothie? There was a need in the market for an easy way to have a healthy fruit drink. And Innocent Smoothies in the UK successfully grew from a stall to a sizeable company in a very tough market category. The USP: Convenient, naturally functional fruit drinks from an ethical supplier.

4) Finding a consistently good blend of coffee especially for espresso-based drinks is not an easy task. But Illy Coffee is well on its way to becoming the first global brand coffee in the world. Their marketing is based around: outstanding taste, authentic Italian experience in every cup, the choice of connoisseurs and coffee lovers.
Your USP is the distilled essence of what you are offering. Make it sound fast, easy and low-risk. Your USP should be so compelling that it can be written on a board in front of your shop, if you had one, and can be quoted when meeting potential customers.

How to create a USP? Roderic has a simple 5 step process;

Step1: Write down the list of benefits that your product/service offers. They could be centred around your price, technical excellence, taste, specialism, exclusivity. Think about the end result your customer wants from such a product. The best way is to pair each feature of your product with the benefit it brings.

Step 2: Quick market research: Sit down at your computer and find out who your most prominent competitors are. What are they saying on their web sites, in their marketing materials, in their ads? Which benefits do they emphasise? What are their messages? Again, try to match product features to their stated benefits. Once you compare your own notes to competitor messages it will be easy to fine tune your own positioning so you have a unique voice against the rest of the market.

Step 3: Look at areas of underperformance or customer needs/pain points in your industry. Which of these are addressed by your product? Make sure your USP ties in with a market need.

Step 4: Strengthen your claims, if you can. Do you have some proof, testimonials, research results to overcome the apathy and scepticism of today's over-marketed consumer?

Step 5: Synthesise your USP into one to two sentences. Write down and rework versions until it sounds right. Don't assume you will do it in one sitting. The USP should answer the customer's question "why should I choose your product?"

Your USP is not a simple slogan or tagline. It is the mainstay, the common thread of all your communications and no message should go out from your business without your USP in it, or emphasising one of the elements of your USP. Your USP will spark interest and single you out as the best choice in your prospects' eyes.

Roderic Michelson is a company growth expert for Aralex Consulting Ltd. Roderic's expertise is in being able to assess quickly a company's growth potential, as well as areas for improvement. Working closely with his clients, he helps them prepare and implement a project plan to position them for sustained growth. Roderic holds an MBA from London Business School. He is author of "The Recession-Fighting Guide" and publishes the Business Growth Blog. Roderic is also frequent speaker to professional groups across London. He can be contacted at: /

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