value.

Viva la Difference

Following the crowd is a surefire way to sinkout in our new economy. Value is all about distinction and leadership. And being clear in how we communicate and evidence that value to our buyers is the most critical step of all. Yet how often do we get stuck in the "me too" marketing of our industry?

I reviewed a prospective client’s website this weekend, checking on their positioning and messaging as well as products, customers and overall company highlights. Then I popped to a couple of their competitors’ sites to cross check the value and differentiation for myself.

If I removed the logos from the websites, I couldn’t tell the difference between any of these vendors. Think I'm exaggerating? Fine, you try to find a distinct Value among the sameness.

Here are three positioning statements describing the vendors' value. (Note: these are direct from the websites with the specific business names "buried" to protect the guilty.)

  • Vendor 1’s product ‘delivers unsurpassed customer value, with breakthrough reliability, scalability and manageability, all within a highly cost efficient and easy to manage platform.'
  • Vendor 2’s product ‘offers clients unmatched performance and scalability, simple manageability, industry leading reliability and the lowest cost of operations available.’
  • Vendor 3’s product ‘powers real-time performance and scalability while delivering unmatched reliability, availability and serviceability – all in an economical green package.
OK– so at least the last product has a green paint job. That’s different!

Seriously - Do you see a customer-focused 'So What?' that is distinct or compelling - in any of these statements?

Following are some simple shifts that would make any one of these three positioning statements standout above the crowd.

  • Add quantitative evidence, and spin it in your favor. If you don’t have the exact numbers, give relative percentages. Rather than ‘increased reliability and performance’, how about "Systems continuously operate 25% longer with no downtime, while you complete transactions 3 times faster." I know - that's still a bit nebulous. But you get the idea. Apply the value in a way that maps to your customers' concerns and business results.
  • Apply the value to a customer scenario. Apply your value in customer language. Frame the benefit. "Customers can process 2x the transactions in half the time thanks to….’ Then tell a story of how a customer did just that - and the impact it had on their bottom line results. Make it easy for your audience to quickly find customer stories that mirror their world - their business, their markets, their problems and challenges - and how you helped them find the solutions. People understand value when it’s applied to something relevant to them. When it's not applied - they don't get a clear picture. That leaves the door open for the competition to do a better job of communicating - and grabbing the customer's interest.
  • Get specific. Find a better way to talk about the value. Stop using the same industry claims every one of your competitors use. Instead of that nice 'green packaging', how about '4 out of 5 customers reduced power costs by 40% over 18 months'. That sure got the green claim across, didn’t it? Better than the paint job!
The bottom line is that to truly communicate with our audiences, we need to stop using the same words that everyone drags along, and start thinking creatively, originally and most of all - we need to thrive on being different!

Oh, and while I'm on my Marketing Soapbox, let me just say that IMHO phrases like ‘industry leading’, ‘breakthrough’, ‘unmatched’, 'revolutionary' and the like should all be stricken from the marketing dictionary.

Just sayin'.

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