The biggest marketing problem that most businesses face is differentiation. No matter how unique you think you are, your prospects and customers have many choices, and often can’t see noticeable differences between you and your competitors. How many ads or brochures do you see where companies say their service is “customer-driven.” I would hope so. Or you product or service delivers “results.” Or you’ve got a “hands-on” approach. These are not statements of difference. They’re statements of similarity.

Differentiation comes down to focus. The difficulty most companies have in differentiating comes down to fear of focus. They’re often afraid to focus because they feel that by doing so won’t give voice to all the great things they can do. So true. But without focus, you can’t really get people to associate any particular attribute with your company. Take Volvo. They have a lot going for them, but they differentiate by focusing on ‘safety.’ BMW focuses on performance; Mercedes, on the perception of success. My guess is that Mercedes and BMW are just as safe as Volvo and Volvo could easily claim that they’ve got models that could outperform any German car. But, they’re not afraid to pick an attribute and focus on it. Further, it doesn’t even have to be proven. People at Avis are not trying harder than folks at Hertz. Hertz people are trying pretty darn hard, too. But, they say it anyway. Is it a lie? Hard to say. But the repeated emphasis on one core attribute gets the message across. And so long as they can demonstrate that it could be true, they’ve got a chance at creating the perception that it is.


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