If you are ever looking for a great way to contemplate differentiating your firm, just stroll through the grocery store aisles. I don’t know about you, but I had no idea there were jalapeno ketchup, ketchup in a bag and green ketchup, when all they are really selling is a substance created of tomatoes. These variations give the consumer choices, and choices illicit preferences. They are positioning their marketing to prove their product is the best.

But products have it easy compared to services. The real test of a product is tangible —you can touch it and taste it — whereas a service is intangible, typically highly intangible. So how do you stand out from the very large crowd? Consider a few of these to arrive at your firm’s differentiator:

What makes your service CRAZY different?

When you consider all the services, experience and knowledgeable staff your firm has to offer a client, what is really different? Ask your team and then really evaluate what is being offered as a differentiator. Often, I hear companies say “what makes us different is our people!” or “We have passion!” These are admirable qualities to be but are they differentiators? Stated this way, probably not. But let’s not push it aside yet. Sometimes these are good ideas that need more definition, for example:

>> What is the feeling you are receiving as a client?

>> What does the proposed differentiator solve for the client?

>> What is the behavior the client receives consistently from this?

>> Test it!

Now that you have your short list of ideas, see which ones rise to the top by running each through a filter in these categories:

>> Can it be easily replicated? If yes, it is only a matter of time before a competitor is doing the same thing.

>> Is it interpersonal? If it is a behavior, such as “we respond to all issues within 24 hours or less” is everyone doing it every time?

>> Is it true? Would your clients agree that this is a quality your organization possesses and one that your competitors do not do?

>> Is it worth it? This is where you ask yourself if the differentiator is going to bring true value to your client and if that value translates to client loyalty.

>> Package it!

Once a differentiator is identified and the organization is in sync with it, the time has come to package it to make it come to life for the client. A few steps need to be taken here. First, you need to articulate the differentiator in a way that is memorable and meaningful. Consider this:

>> Create a “billboard” — If your differentiator were going to exist on a billboard, what would the simple, brief and attention-grabbing message be?

>> Write your company obituary — If what makes your firm different is truly something special and something that stands out, it should hold value, have an emotional reaction to what is received when working with your firm, and should be consistent/long-lasting. If you were writing the final words of your loved one, you would focus on qualities that stood out, that people valued and what made them so loved. So do the same; write not only the differentiator, but also the unique approach the client receives and the commitment the employees have to it.

>> Think of it as a gift — Now that you are armed with the clear idea of what makes you different, how do you physically represent it? The possibilities are limitless…push yourself to go beyond the typical brochure or writing a paragraph about it on your website. What can they physically touch and feel that reinforces this difference?

Let’s go back to the ketchup aisle and see what stands out … as service-based organizations we have so much to choose from. Are we the unique option? Are we the all-natural option? Are we the most choices option? Or are we content doing business in the general brand aisle and be available as the low cost, commodity option?

If you have any questions about this article or any of the topics I have covered in previous AZRE magazine articles, please feel free to contact me at Danielle@smallgiantsonline.com