Drug testing

Differentiation ? Smart Marketing Strategies for the Solo Entrepreneur

Are you ever frustrated or hesitant when you talk to prospective customers because you can't readily explain why they should come to you rather than go to your competitors? Sure, you might have your 30-second elevator speech, but then they ask you that dreaded question, "So what makes you different?" Then, all those self-doubts creep in, and you just aren't sure what to say. Differentiation can boost confidence--yours in yourself and that prospective customer's confidence in you!

-- Dif-fer-en-ti-ate v. tr. To perceive or show the difference in or between; discriminate. --

In business terms, to differentiate means to create a benefit that customers perceive as being of greater value to them than what they can get elsewhere. It's not enough for you to be different--a potential customer has to take note of the difference and must feel that the difference somehow fits their need better. (Other words that mean virtually the same thing: Competitive Advantage; Unique Selling Proposition; or Value Proposition.)

As you are building your business, you can use differentiation to attract more customers. Once you have momentum, differentiation allows you to charge a higher price because you are delivering more value to your customers. Make a point to evaluate and adjust your differentiation methods at least annually.

The various methods of differentiating your businesses fall into four general categories:

Price Differentiation

Focus Differentiation

Product/Service Differentiation

Customer Service Differentiation

Price Differentiation

Differentiating on price is probably the most common and easily understood method. HOWEVER, for Solo Entrepreneurs, caution is in order. On the one hand, potential customers might expect a lower price from you than from your larger competition because they perceive you as having less overhead, etc. On the other hand, cheaper prices can evoke perceptions of lower quality, a less-stable business, etc. And if you compete on price against competitors with deeper pockets, you can price yourself right into bankruptcy. Be creative with this differentiator by competing on something other than straight price. For example, you might offer:

- More value--offer more products or services for the same price.

- Freebies --accessories, companion products, free upgrades, and coupons for future purchases.

- Free shipping, etc.--convenience sells, especially when it is free!

- Discounts--includes offering regular sales, coupons, etc. (see cautions above)

Focus Differentiation

For Solo Entrepreneurs, this is the most important method of differentiation, and in many ways, the easiest. Why? Because as a Solo Entrepreneur, you simply can't be everything to everybody, so you must pick a specific way to focus your business. Once you have done that, you have an automatic advantage over larger companies because you can become more of an expert in that one field --and you can build close relationships with key customers that will be hard to duplicate. For example, you might differentiate yourself through:

- Location--take advantage your closeness to prospective customers.

- Customer specialization--be very specific about what characteristics your customers will have-for example, racing bicycle enthusiasts or companies with a spiritual conscience.

- Customer relationships--know customers really well, form partnerships with them, and get them to speak for you!

- Affinity relationships--associate your product/service with a well-known person or organization.

- One-stop shopping--offer everything your target market needs, in your area of expertise.

- Wide selection (within your niche)-although this one may seem to be the opposite of focus--the key is to be very specific in one dimension and very broad in another.

Product/Service Offering Differentiation

How much you are able to differentiate your product or service offering will vary based on what type of business you are in. For instance, if you are in a highly regulated business, your options may be limited. Explore a totally new market or type of product or service, however, and the possibilities abound. The key to successful differentiation in this category, again, is to know your customers, really, really well. Talk to them often, and you will know what they need most and be able to offer it, long before your competitors know what is happening. For example, your product or service could stand out in one of these ways:

- Quality--create a product or service that is exceptional in one or more ways. Examples: Lasts longer

- Better

- Easier to use

- Safer

- New/First--be the first one to offer something in your location/field.

- Features/Options--offer lots of choices, unusual combinations, or solve a problem for a customer in a way no one else does.

- Customization--as a Solo Entrepreneur, you may be able to more easily handle special orders than big, mass-market competitors.

Customer Service Differentiation

Have you noticed how customer service seems to be out of vogue these days? This situation makes excellent customer service a great opportunity for differentiation and another natural advantage for Solo Entrepreneurs that already know what's important to their customers. Build your reputation on making customers feel really good about doing business with you. Works great with referral marketing, too. Examples:

- Deliver fast--next day, or one-hour--make it faster than customers think possible.

- Unique channel--offer a service over the phone or Internet instead of in person or in their office rather than yours.

- Service-delight customers!--it may seem expensive to offer exceptional service--but it pays off in word-of-mouth advertising.

- Before/during/after-sales support--provide technical or other support to customers using your product. You might use joint ventures to provide that support--but customers will perceive it as being from you!

- Guarantee/warranty--offer 100% money-back, or free replacement parts.

- YOU--offer yourself, your unique blend of talents and skills, to attract customers. Make sure they get access to you, too!

Keys to Successful Differentiation:

- Know your customers, really, really well.

- Pick a blend of differentiation methods that, in the eyes of your customers, truly sets you apart.

- Talk about your differentiation in terms of customer benefits.

- Tell everyone about what differentiates you--often.

- Keep your differentiation fresh by listening for changing customer needs.

Copyright 2002-2003, Terri Zwierzynski, Accel Innovation, Inc.

_________

Terri Zwierzynski is a coach to small business owners and Solo Entrepreneurs. She is also the CEI (Conductor of Extraordinary Ideas) at Solo-E.com and the author of 136 Ways To Market Your Small Business. Terri is an MBA honors graduate from UNC-Chapel Hill. Terri has been coaching for over 10 years in a variety of settings, including 6 years as a senior-level coach and consultant for a Fortune 500 company. She opened her private coaching practice in 2001. You can reach Terri at http://www.TerriZ.com.

_________

***** Find more articles like this at http://www.Solo-E.com ? Keeping Solo Entrepreneurs Juiced in Business and in Life. Our team of Solo Entrepreneurs are comprised of small business experts who support others in finding business success with the flexibility and freedom to have a life, too. Network with other freelancers, self-employed and Solo Entrepreneurs in our forums, enjoy our articles and newsletter, and find other online training opportunities. *****

limousine chicago service
In The News:

My Nemisis

Living in the twilight zone has its advantages. In the... Read More

Six Steps to Guarantee Your Business Success

Many of us slave away for years for one uninspiring... Read More

PTO; Justification of the Means and the Ends

Some would say about certain issues that the means do... Read More

Which Niche To Conquer?

I'm sure that you've heard about how many start up... Read More

7 Lean Marketing Laws For The Inspired Entrepreneur

The following laws will provide guidance on how to act,think... Read More

Needs Versus Wants For Entrepreneurs

How often do the words "I need" come out of... Read More

Have You Been Thinking About Owning Your Own Business? Or Becoming An Entrepreneur? Part 1

Almost every day, I talk with people who want to... Read More

Pre-Money vs. Post-Money Valuation

When a company decides that it must raise capital, a... Read More

Entrepreneurial Excerpt from a Speech to Small Business

Having built a business from a bucket of water and... Read More

Venture Capital Negotiating Issues

When companies enter into negotiations with venture capital firms, there... Read More

Does It Really Take Money To Make Money (Online or Offline)? A Reality-Check of 2 Case Studies

The short and simple answer to this question is NO!Now,... Read More

Why eBay Is A Smart Choice For Entrepreneurs

Attention entrepreneurs: If you think the search for the ultimate... Read More

Something From Nothing, With Something To Share

Betrayal, it can hit you like a load of bricks... Read More

Top 10 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make Before They Even Start

So you want to start a business. You have an... Read More

Near-death Experience is the Mother of Invention for Two Dallas Electricians

To morning commuters, the hulking truck encircled with barricades and... Read More

Find Me the Expert on This!

Many people who set up as consultants never make more... Read More

Securing Second and Third-round Venture Capital Financing

Widget sales are booming ? the competition is scrambling, demand... Read More

Youth Entrepreneurship, A Disappointing Truth

The psychology of entrepreneurship can be very rewarding to one... Read More

Be An Entrepreneurial Artist: Paint A Picture, then Commit It to Canvas

James had an original concept and he needed an investor.... Read More

New Rules

Last week I was working with one of my small... Read More

How To Find Focus And Turn Your Talent Into A Thriving Professional Business

There are tons of books and articles available to help... Read More

Work vs Play: Which is the Better Way to Make Big Money?

If you want to make big money, you have to... Read More

Independent Auto Detail Shop VS Biz Op or Franchise

Owning a detail shop can be an exciting and rewarding... Read More

The Deal is in the Details

What Startups Need to Get a Business Loan, Part 2In... Read More

Entrepreneurship Story; Over Regulation in Franchising Part I

Jim and Sally run a successful auto business, which they... Read More

induction roadway lighting street lighting Pete's produce ..