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Differentiate or Lose

What defines a market leader? It used to be delivering the best products and services. Or superior customer service. But things are different today. To win the hearts, minds and wallets of customers, you need to be more than excellent at product and service. You need to be different. To push the boundaries of what’s possible and deliver innovations that truly change the game.

This isn’t an easy proposition – particularly for large enterprises. But it’s a critical one. Because companies that don’t differentiate themselves will ultimately perish at the hands of more nimble upstarts who are creating new models for business that are disrupting entire industries and transforming the way business is done.

How can you set your company apart and thrive?

1) Take a stand. Business is more socially conscious than ever. Today’s consumers are no longer satisfied buying products that are well made. They want to know that they were produced using organic inputs without any forced labor. Or that a portion of the money they spend will be used to fund sustainable farms, mosquito nets and schools in impoverished regions or other causes that matter to them. What does your company stand for? Find a cause that aligns with your business and own it. And the evangelists will follow.

2) Be the No. 1 advocate for your customer. Be empathetic. Empathy is one of the most underrated – but valuable tools a business has. And it’s the key to differentiation. If you can put yourself in the shoes of your customers and understand their needs, desires, and the outcomes they’re hoping to achieve, you can design tools that sets you – and them – apart, giving them a seat at the table within their companies. Enable them to be leaders of transformation and watch them thrive.

3) Watch your competition — closely. The only way to really get ahead is to have a clear line of sight into what your competitors are doing. You can’t beat them if you don’t know them. Be aware of how they are positioning themselves, what the media is saying about them, what their user experience is like. And then position around – and ahead of them. Leaders don’t have rearview mirrors. They always look ahead. Manage today, but plan for tomorrow, creating a space that you – and only you – can own.

4) Think creatively, and move differently. Don’t just try and master proven methods of success. Invent new models that challenge the status quo and drive more efficient, effective ways of doing things that deliver value for you and your customers.  In the old days, success in business was driven largely by process standardization and conformity. And survival was for the fittest. In today’s business world, it’s all about creative disruption. And survival is for the different.

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