Why You’re Struggling to Stand Out from the Crowd (and What to Do About It)

300hLet’s try a quick thought experiment.
Imagine I asked you to list your 5 most appealing qualities. The things that make you most attractive to others. What would you say?
Your looks? Personality? Sense of humour?
Would you feel confident in your answers or would they be more like best guesses?
Now, what if I asked your spouse, partner, friends and family the same question?
Would they tick the same boxes?
And what if you wanted to attract more people, who’s list would be most useful?
Yours or theirs?

The Problem with Self-Assessment in Business

Despite the almost impossible task of self-diagnosing our own attractiveness, this same thought experiment continues to take place behind the closed doors of marketing departments and businesses around the world.
The question might be slightly different, (How can we stand out, differentiate our service or exert a greater pull?) but the desired result is the same.
To move out of obscurity and become your market’s go to supplier.
The problem with this approach is twofold. Not only are you ill equipped to find the answer by yourself, but you can end up driving headlong down blind alleys.
This is because, when looking for ways to make our businesses more magnetic, you most likely look at what you offer. AKA, the features of your products or services.
Which makes sense, because it’s the stuff you can see.
Thing is, when you compare what you offer to your competition, it’s easy to conclude that there’s not much separating you from the rest of the pack.
This realisation inevitably leads to the pursuit of that all important differentiator. Some sort of feature, service or a way of working that feels innovative.
Which is a bit like the quest for the Holy Grail. A noble undertaking but ultimately an expensive waste of resources that, more often than not, bears no genuine fruit.
Because for many people differentiation equals unique. And unique is tough to find in today’s chockablock B2B markets.
Just ask Apple.
After dominating the mobile phone market for what feels like decades, the company known across the globe for innovation, appears to have run out of steam.
Not that it doesn’t continue to knock out fabulous products. It does. But could any of them truly be considered unique?
You’ve also got to wonder, how important unique is?
Are the millions of people currently carrying an iPhone in their back pockets really concerned about unique?
What about the thousands more who camp out at Apple Stores to get their hands on the latest (yet essentially the same) phone as last year?
Can unique really be the key to opening their wallets or are they motivated by something else?

Why Your Clients are the Holy Grail of Your Sales and Marketing

When thinking about the motivators that trigger purchase, there are typically two sets of factors to consider. What a person wants and why they want it.
The what is the logical reasoning of hard fact that centres around utility. I want a new mobile phone. I want certain features and I want it to run on iOS.
The why is the more emotionally charged elements that tell us how we feel about the purchase.
Unique qualities can be part of the why but it’s what that uniqueness means to an individual that makes it important.
People tend to choose a phone for what they feel it says about them:

  1. It will make me look cool
  2. It is the brand of choice for designers and I’m a designer
  3. It will help me fit in with my friends who all have one

While, the what helps you isolate the thing you are going to buy, the why triggers the purchase.
Essentially, the what tells you what people want and the why makes it meaningful.
And like the legendary Grail of King Arthur, the Why is the well spring of your business’ longevity.
Because in commoditised markets it’s the why, not the what, that sets you apart from your competition and draws like-minded purchasers towards you.
Fundamentally, it’s the reason your customers bought from you and disregarded the 1,000s of other suppliers they could have chosen from.
What’s interesting is your customer’s why is often different from what you imagine it to be.
After all, what are features and benefits but best guesses as to what you imagine will make your product or service attractive.
What’s more, when you investigate your market’s why, it can make you aware of features that either you hadn’t thought of before or things that you had, but never put much stake in.
Here’s an example:
At a case study interview for an object storage provider, I discovered that their client’s purchase had nothing to do with innovation or any one feature. It was down to the design philosophy of the system and what it had enabled their client to achieve.
Having looked at a few alternatives, it was the vendor’s laser focus on object storage and resulting simplicity of the solution that had best suited their client’s needs.
In fact, by adding more functionality their competitors had made their products more complicated and less effective. Thereby ruling themselves out.
This was important because the client’s storage needs was growing exponentially making traditional methods more expensive and complicated to use. The last thing they wanted was further complexity.
Yes their product did storage well (that was a given) and yes it saved money. But it was because it made life easier and less stressful that it was chosen.
That was their client’s why.

How to Find Your Business’ Why

When looking for ways to make our businesses more magnetic, doesn’t it make sense to stop neglecting the very people who can give us the insight we need?
If you want to know what makes you attractive to your market, ask your clients.
After all they’ve already bought from you and can tell you everything you need to know to sell to people just like them.
Things like:

  1. Why they chose you over and above the other options they pursued.
  2. How you made them feel.
  3. What you’ve helped them achieve and why that’s important to them.
  4. How you’ve made them look to their significant others.
  5. The impact you’ve had on their careers.

This criteria is far removed from the logic of features and benefits. They are the food of gut feel.
And there’s no better time to find out your client’s why than when developing your case studies.
Because case studies are all about the why.
Upfront they talk about why your client came to you in the first place. The challenges they were facing and the impact those challenges were having on their business.
Next, your case studies describe the solution you put in place, why you were so well placed to implement that solution and why it was effective in overcoming your clients specific challenges.
Finally they depict the results that your solution helped to achieve and why those results were meaningful to both the business and the people you helped.
Each of those things, the challenges you help overcome, your specialist skills and the results and impact you achieve, demonstrate your difference.
They are your sweet spot. The meaningful differentiators that will hit both a logical and emotional chord with people who find themselves in similar situations and looking for the same results.
Because let’s face it. Every purchase is a risk.
And when, given the choice of something unique or something that works. the majority of us will always go for the sure thing.

Unleash the Power of Your Case Studies

We are developing a simple tool that will help you to quickly transform your case studies into high impact, prospect pulling, mean machines.
It’s called the Case Study Audit and it will be ready soon.
Click here and we will send you your complimentary copy as soon as it’s ready.

Previous Post
The 5 Mistakes that Kill Case Studies and How to Fix Them
Next Post
The Karate Kid Guide to Crafting Kick Ass Case Studies

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed