Let’s start with a picture of this child. Take a close look.
We’ll be coming back to him in a moment. But first, we’re going to play a little game called the Cupcake Differentiation Challenge. Feast your eyes on these tempting cupcakes.
They are all red velvet cupcakes, but each is made from a different recipe containing different ingredients and flavors. The game is this: You must pick the most delicious tasting of the bunch. If you succeed, you win $100,000. If you don’t, you owe $50,000. You can’t sample them in advance. You have to pick based on just looking at them. How would you do it? (This is all hypothetical, of course. Don’t send an attorney to collect your winnings.)
What’s that, you say? They all look the same? You can’t know which is best without trying them first? Yes, it does feel like a high-stakes crapshoot. A little stressful, eh?
Gee, I wonder who else goes through this. Oh, that’s right…It’s your buyers every time they are choosing between you and the multitude of other offerings exactly like yours.
Now let’s go to a different shot of that little boy you saw above.
Oops, that’s not the same little boy. It’s his identical twin. Without scrolling up and cheating, can you discern what makes this little boy different from the other one?
(Jeopardy music playing in the background)
How long did it take? Or did you give it a try and quickly give up? Did you simply find it impossible? (If you’re still looking, scroll down for a side by side comparison.)
The differences in many identical twins are so subtle that you have to have intimate knowledge of them and be around them quite a bit in order to pick up on what makes one different from the other. In fact, often they, their parents and perhaps their closest friends are the only ones who can discern the differences.
If your offerings and/or company aren’t clearly and obviously unique at a glance, your customer will see you and your competition as identical twins. Even if there are differences, your prospect has neither the time nor the inclination to do a detailed exam and comparison to discover them. The prospect is going to take a quick look, decide that you are identical to one another, and buy based on price. They are not going to invest the effort to actively seek out the differences. Or they will find irrelevant, arbitrary differences that influence them – your competitor shares the buyer’s favorite hobby or alma mater, or some other arcane factor. Your odds of winning business become a game of price and random chance – not a good basis for achieving sustainable growth. Not a basis at all for growing margins. You are merely another face in the crowd, another me-too.
On the other hand, if you pop out – if you’re truly unique in your ability to solve a particular and pressing customer problem — you will get the buyer’s attention. More importantly, you will get the broader market’s attention, and buyers will start seeking you out. In a crowded market, this is an important first step toward sustainable growth and margins.
I’ll talk more about how to clearly differentiate yourself in upcoming posts.