By Jeffrey Hedquist
In a commercial, we’re asking the audience to give us their attention for the purpose of letting us convince them to give us their money. They’ll only do this in their own self-interest. They don’t care about us, so we need to answer the question, “Why should I buy from you?”
In a very short amount of time, in the midst of a crowded environment we need to reach an over-communicated audience with a message that answers this question. In short, we need to clarify our client’s competitive advantage. I was inspired to discuss this by the extensive work done by Jaynie L. Smith, author of Creating Competitive Advantage: Give Customers a Reason to Choose You Over your Competition. I’ll be paraphrasing some of her points here as they apply to being a better marketing partner with our clients.
Identifying Your Client’s Competitive Advantages
How can we develop a list of competitive advantages for our client? Get to know your client by examining their web site, shopping them, checking out competitors, talking to their customers, staff, even the owner. Brainstorm with your colleagues and with your client contacts. Make as long a list as you can.
One clear advantage might be enough to create a winning campaign, or you may need several to do the job. Remember to keep it simple. One advantage in each spot, please.
As you develop your list, use the following criteria:
1. Be clear. Great service and good value are nice phrases that mean nothing to your audience.
Don’t tell me about your competitive advantage; show me. Tell me a story that demonstrates it. Answer a prospective customer’s eternal question, “What’s in it for me?”
2. Be specific. “Our program really works,” isn’t as powerful as “93.2% of the people in our program continue for a year or more.”
“Why not go with the biggest provider?” versus “We write 30% of the workers comp. coverage in the state, more than any other provider.”
The details make your position more believable.
3. Be unique. Don’t tout something your competition can match or even exceed.
When you uncover something unique, make sure your potential customers care about it before you advertise it. Explain the advantages to the customer. See points 1 and 2.
4. Be able to express it in a way that’s not a cliché.
Unfortunately the usual client responses to the first 3 criteria are: Good customer service. Great quality. Good reputation. Good results. Our employees. Our knowlegible staff. Our consistency. Our responsiveness. Our innovation. Our trust.
These are the basic requirements to be in business. These are NOT competitive advantages. A weak list like this leads an advertiser to try to compete by lowering prices.
You need to be prepared to go deeper with your client to uncover competitive advantages that meet the 4 criteria above.
It needs to be important to the customer (your existing customers as well as prospects). After you and your employees have defined your competitive advantages, you need to find out from your customers what’s important.
They may be the competitive advantages you think are important, but often your customers have their own priorities and will give you feedback you didn’t expect.
None of what you have come up with matters if it doesn’t matter to the customer.
Who should do the customer survey? NOT your client. If they ask the questions they won’t get valid input from customers and prospects.
You want the truth; because it’s the only way you’ll know what customers really want. You could do it, or you could interest the marketing department of a university and get interns or a professor who wants a project. They’ll help craft the survey and interns will make the calls. They get a real-world project and you get good input.
Want to be a good marketer for your client? Help them define their competitive advantage. It will make it easier for you to help them be successful.
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