As a Differentiation Coach who consistently creates dramatic results for my clients, I see countless differentiation concepts bandied about in the business world that fall dramatically short of their objectives and potential.

Some are academic exercises that seem great in theory but just don't deliver the goods.  Some are just plain difficult to translate from the 'big business' paradigm they were developed in to the context of a small or medium sized businesses.  But if those same businesses would just focus on the 5 phases outlined below, they would find it much simpler to create a differentiated offer to the marketplace.

If you look up the definition for “differentiation,” you’ll come up with more or less the same ideas. The basic concept is that you have an idea or, in marketing terms, a Unique Selling Proposition, that highlights why are you different so that your market can quickly identify with it. Marketing experts generally reference the 4 (or 5 and sometimes 6) P's of the marketing mix as a starting point for differentiation: Product, Price, Place and Promotion (and sometimes People and Process). But effective differentiation is so much more than that. It’s really about the Strategy and Execution.

Even with an amazing brand presence or a killer new product, your business can fail if you don’t approach it with a strategic plan.

When I help my clients differentiate their businesses, we start at a foundational level, and build out the 5 phases to their Differentiation Strategy, all of which are critical if you’re serious about getting your business in the game.

  1. Take a stand:  Your business needs character in order to stand out. It must have a clear essence that permeates throughout all aspects of your planning and execution. This is about much more than product or ideas. This is about your fundamental philosophy.
  2. Commit:  Once you have established your overriding philosophy, then clearly define your commitments to that. There’s no point in taking a stand if you aren’t prepared to stand behind it!
  3.  Audit:  With your philosophy and your commitments now established, audit your business for gaps and inconsistencies. Identify where you can improve and where you are not performing to those standards. How do your products and services align, or not, with these principles?
  4.  Align:  This is where your Differentiation Strategy supports the growth and development of your business. Consistently refer to your philosophy and commitments to ensure that all future ideas and plans are aligned with them. Don’t compromise. It’s not worth it.
  5. Execute: This is the stage where the rubber meets the road. If you’re serious about building a differentiated business, every step of your execution must be consistent with the principles and commitments you have outlined above. 

Differentiation is only effective if you have a strategy to support it ... Create a game plan that creates a consistent and powerful experience for your clients and above all, be committed to implementing your plan …  your actions will create your results.


- Michèle