What sets your business apart from your competitors? I have asked this question to dozens of printers. Most can come up with a quick list—we have great customer service, we do quality printing, we have lots of equipment, our prices are great, and so on. I then would ask, do you think your top competitors would say the same things? Most say yes.In that case, what really differentiates your company from your competitors?
I don’t doubt that you may have better employees who provide great customer service or that you produce quality products. Looking at your company from a customer’s or client’s perspective, don’t you think that they assume that you will provide great service and the job will be done right and on time? So why do you get new clients?
Start the Buzz
Amazingly, most printers believe that a majority of their new business comes from word of mouth. Wow! I ask them how they really know that, and how did they get their initial clients, as they had no word of mouth to rely on when they started? Printers also might be losing business by word of mouth, as we all know that an unhappy customer will tell more people about their negative experience than those who had a positive experience.
Do you really want to count on getting new business by word of mouth? The proper answer is no, although in today’s social media craze, word of mouth can be created and controlled to a large degree. I firmly believe you need to create a “buzz” about your business. It’s called marketing.
That buzz can be a tag line, a catch phrase, a story, or something that will definitely separate your business from your competitors. Just realize that you need to be viewed as being different from your competitors.
Know What Matters
In today’s marketplace, print owners not only have to say they are better than the competition, they have to prove it. You certainly may be able to prove that your service/products are better, faster, cheaper, and more graphically pleasing, but it is what your customer believes and—most importantly—what your customer needs/wants.
While they may believe, they may not need. For example, in the case of cell phones, a phone may have coverage in 5,000 cities across the world, but the mom who has two dropped calls a day while driving across town to shuffle the children to activities would rather have a phone that works in her city, and not in 5,000 others.
Learn what your customers are willing to believe, but be sure that your differentiator aligns with their wants and needs. That is a stronger relationship that you can build on to create brand loyalty, since you are speaking to them instead of at them. What makes you different is memorable, and the competition is eliminated in the mind of the consumer. You may have 20 offerings, but stick to the one thing that will get you noticed. If you try to do more, there is simply too much to take in and you will be overlooked.
Look for differentiators that mean something to your clients. Use stories, examples, or testimonials from actual situations or clients to illustrate or prove your differentiator. Here are some examples.
Market the Concept
My former business used the tag line “We specialize in meeting impossible deadlines.” Most of our marketing was around this theme. We could cite lots of examples of clients who put us to that task and show how we met their impossible deadline. We marketed a concept and not a specific product or service. Prospects and clients thought of us as the “can do” printer. Our direct mail showed that we were supermen in taking complicated projects and getting them done to meet their deadlines.
Kinko’s original differentiator was “Open 24 hours.” This was pure marketing, as the reality is that they did very little business between midnight and 8 a.m. The key was that their customers knew that they had all night to get their project to Kinko’s. The Internet printers today capitalize on this same concept, as their customers can get pricing and order online 24 hours a day, seven days a week.