Defining Your Unique Difference
Common wisdom in the sophisticated world of B2C marketing is “If you build something without fully understanding what the customer wants, you are probably not going to sell as much of it as you like”.
B2B companies like IBM, Dell and UPS clearly understand this, but for many B2B organizations, the starting point is the opposite. “Do what you know, and someone is bound to buy it.“ For example, in the accounting world, there are the Big Six accounting firms and thousands of other accounting firms that are no better or worse than the competition.
If your product or service is somewhat generic, how do you define your unique difference and communicate it to your target market? At Rapport, we recommend that our clients look for common industry gaps in the service or product they are selling and then fill those gaps.
A great example of a company that filled a gap and became a runaway success is Zappos, an online store for shoes. Zappos took the risk out of online shoe shopping by offering free shipping BOTH ways. In other words, you can send your purchase back free. The genius in the idea… how can you possibly buy shoes without trying them on? So unless you bought the same shoes before, how will you know they will fit? With Zappos, it doesn’t matter. Zappos must have started this great approach by reviewing the potential objections to buying shoes online and then looking at different ways to overcome those objections. Any other company could have done this, but companies often reject good ideas just because they seem too hard or too expensive. Of course “free returns including shipping” seems expensive, but if that is what is keeping customers away from using you, isn’t it worth exploring how to make that happen and still make money?
Your unique difference is not something you say, it is something you do. And then, of course, you tell people about it.
Back to the Accounting Firm
Taking this same approach and applying it to accounting firms, let’s look at an example most of us can relate to: personal income tax preparation. One of the most frustrating experiences people go through each year is preparing the documents their accountant needs for tax preparation. My accountant sends me a list of all of the things I need to prepare. What happens? I use the list, and a few days before the deadline I take the documents to her office. She then sends me home, because I am missing a document. But what if my accountant sent me the list and then phoned me and asked when she could come to the house to pick up the documents? And then, when I am missing something, I could just walk upstairs and get it? And when people ask her what her firm does she says, “We are the only accounting firm in Toronto that personally picks up your income tax information”. Not only does that say a whole lot about how much better the income tax preparation experience could be if you use her firm, but also tells you about how serious the firm is about providing great service and putting the client first.
If your company is growth-oriented, discovering a “real” point of unique difference is the key to unleashing the organization’s true potential.