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How to create them and stand out from the competition.
The secret to being perceived as different and stay ahead of competitors is to innovate, using the information and creativity
To win over and maintain their market space, companies should seek to differentiate themselves from competitors by offering customers something they value and identify as unique or special. Therefore, a competitive differential or competitive advantage is what makes the offerings of a particular company be chosen by potential customers, because they’re considered better or more convenient than the options presented by competitors. This differentiation can be achieved in different ways and each entrepreneur can choose the ones that seem most appropriate for them. It’s worth mentioning that every company is able to do this: often, the required investment is low and in some cases it’s not even necessary to spend anything, except time. The secret is to use, at the same time, information and creativity. Let’s start with information. You know your customers well, you know their needs and the difficulties they face on a daily basis.
How about using this information that you already have to offer them something that is seen as a solution to a problem or an element that facilitates their work? This is where creativity comes in. If it’s difficult to find original ideas, why not use as a base the positive experiences of other companies in the same industry or from others? A very interesting example is from the retailer Formex, in Colombia, which created a parts delivery system for refrigeration technicians. The store delivers the requested items directly to the address where the service will be performed, saving time for their customers, making them feel truly special. Like this one, several other refrigeration parts and components retailers have practices for the same end. This is true of Cacique Refrigeration, based in São José do Rio Preto (SP). “We always try to develop something new and different to attract and satisfy customers or to motivate our employees”, says Rogério Rosalles, the company’s commercial director.
Cacique uses commemorative dates to carry out promotions, raffles, homage or discounts as a way to build loyalty with the public that already visits the store. “In our last actions we held a drawing for an Easter basket and distributed to our clients a Mother’s Day card. This card came blank and with a bonbon. The goal was that technicians, our customers, write their message to the mother that they love so much”, he explains. “We’re also always concerned about the store’s ambiance and decorate it on specific dates. We use displays to make it more attractive for the rest of the year”, says Rogério. The actions developed by the company also include team motivation. “There’s no point doing great promotional work for the client if our own employees aren’t satisfied with the company. It must be a win-win game, with advantages for both sides. Happy collaborators provide better quality service and satisfied customers return to the store”, explains Rogério.
The sales specialist Raúl Candeloro pointed out in the article, “The 6 pillars of differentiation”, some ways for retailers to show that they’re not like the competitors:
- A clear view of the business, to establish a strong connection with the target public and to learn how to communicate with the market correctly;
- A mindset of constant evolution, learning from information brought by customers, always experimenting and changing when necessary;
- Excellence in execution: deliver what is proposed efficiently and quickly;
- Culture and Values: provide first-class service and have a working environment with positive energy and motivated team;
- Emotional benefits: provide differentiated experiences for customers;
- Focus on unmet needs: explore market opportunities, competitor’s faults, behavior shifts of the target public, while at the same time neutralize the factors that tend to annoy customers.
At all times, but especially in economic downturns, it’s necessary to go beyond the basics that everyone already offers. Without any differential, the customer has little reason to choose exactly your store to buy. That is, the risk of losing the sale is great. Therefore, the search for differentiation must be a permanent concern. Because what’s different today may be copied tomorrow – even improved – by competitors, no longer representing an incentive for the customer to consider your store as being special.
TIPS TO DIFFERENTIATE YOUR COMPANY
The Federation of Trade in Goods, Services and Tourism of the State of Minas Gerais (Fecomércio MG) offers some recommendations that help the entrepreneur to stand out from competitors. They are in addition to those pointed out by the specialist Raúl Candeloro in his article (see the text on the left):
- It’s necessary to know how to identify the strengths of the company to be emphasized, as well as the aspects to be improved.
- Study the offered products and knowing exactly the characteristics of each one is essential.
- The professionals responsible for attending customers directly contribute to the company’s image. A poorly attended customer leaves with the worst impression of the store and it’s difficult to reverse this negative image. It’s necessary to gain his trust and show him all that the company has to offer.
- Try to create “exit barriers”. Businesses with these “barriers” are those that can make the customer have a certain dependence on the product or service, either through quality, convenience or other characteristics. This makes him see a switch to another supplier as something that would generate a loss.