Over the last decade, the internet has fueled the growth of disruptors in every market segment. For many years, I worked in the travel industry where travel agents, tour operators and hoteliers saw their businesses forever changed by brands like Expedia, Travelocity, daily deal websites like Jetsetter and social sharing sites like Airbnb. Hailing a taxi cab has been replaced with Uber, Lift and car sharing services like Zipcar. Buying music is now done through streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. The list goes on.
Market disruption is a form of differentiation, a way for a brand to stand out amongst its competition. Disruptors understand that simply focusing on price or service just won’t cut it anymore. They use a multidimensional approach to differentiating their offerings to gain adoption from buyers and attention from the media and the investor community. Try taking a page from the disruptor’s playbook when deciding how to distinguish your business from the competition.
Refresh Your Branding
Disruptors are master branders. They develop clearly articulated brand personalities and visual identities. Most disruptors do very little advertising, instead they are community builders that rely on their customers to share their brands through word-of-mouth. So, consider a brand refresh and look for ways to encourage sharing by your customers. Disruptors love one-word company names too. Some may sound a little silly but Uber certainly works better than ABC Cab Company.
Legacy providers have spent years, and lots of money, building systems and processes to support their businesses. Most were built to serve the business, not necessarily the customer. Disruptors exploit this weakness, building customer-centric companies. Look at your business through the eyes of your customer and simplify your processes whenever possible. And don’t forget to take advantage of smartphone capabilities when selling and servicing your customers. These devices will soon overtake desktop computers and laptops when it comes to how people access the internet (and your business).
Collaborate with Customers
Disruptors know their customers and their competitors very well. They dig deep into data to unearth what drives their buyers to action. Survey your customers, engage with them on social media and create feedback opportunities during every interaction. Invite your customers to contribute to product development, marketing and other aspects of your businesses. Consumers love brands that build relationships with them and collaborate with them to provide a customized product or service.
Experiment and Iterate
Disruptors don’t spend years building new services. They experiment and iterate. Their services are constantly evolving, keeping what works and getting rid of what doesn’t. Launch new services with a select group of customers and make modifications quickly. Once you feel confident about your offer, ramp up your marketing to gain market share.
In a world where consumers are overwhelmed with the amount of marketing messages they see and hear on a daily basis, having a strong differentiation strategy will help your businesses stand out. What works today may not work tomorrow so it’s important to not become complacent and look for new opportunities to differentiate. If you need some creative inspiration, check out these 50 ways to differentiate your brand.
About the author
Mark Cipolletti is the president of Pinch Hit Partners, a Richmond, VA-based marketing company that’s replacing the traditional in-house marketing department. Using a fractional executive model, Pinch Hitters bring c-suite marketing expertise and their vast network of functional experts to lead transformative marketing programs that drive growth for small and mid-sized companies. Learn more at www.pinchhitpartners.com. Contact Mark at email@example.com or on LinkedIn.
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