The Potential to Differentiate

What can we do that’s different?


That’s probably the most asked question in business, and there are a couple of different ways you can go with this. I’ll lump them in to two categories:

1. Everything Else
2. The Customer Experience

Let’s cover the Everything Else category first, because it’s the most popular. A lot of time is spent trying to be different in Everything Else because of the need to get “butts in the door.” It’s a case of urgency thinking. Business is slow, we need more customers, what can we do that’s different to get butts in the door? The Everything Else category is filled with stuff like…

  • Signage: Getting a new, colorful sign, or putting one of those portable yellow marquee signs out front with a list of products.
  • Sales & Events: The annual Christmas in July sale or the Push, Pull, Drag or Shove Trade Days Event.
  • Facebook Page: Everyone’s on Facebook these days.
  • New Products: A new menu, a new product line, a new brand.
  • Stunts & Promotions: How many jelly beans are in the jar? Sink the putt for the discount. Dunk the owner in dunking booth!

The problem with this category is that it’s all temporary. It’s a constant search for instant gratification to keep getting butts in the door. And take a look at the list above, is it really being different?

The Customer Experience

Remember earlier this week when I raved about the branded experience at Bouldin Creek Coffeehouse in Austin? I didn’t even realize they had a Facebook page until this morning. Had I seen their Facebook page, I probably wouldn’t have gone because there’s nothing different about a Facebook page. However, there was something different about their customer experience, and that’s what I liked.

Everything in the Everything Else category can be done by everyone else. The real potential to differentiate your business is in the experience you deliver to customers. No one else can deliver customer interactions exactly the way you deliver them.

But if that’s the secret to real business differentiation, why don’t all businesses spend more time on the customer experience? Why aren’t we amazed with a cool customer experience at every business we frequent? It’s the old butts in the door problem again.

Building a differentiated customer experience is a journey that takes patience and some elbow grease. Mediocre experiences won’t resonate with customers nor will they differentiate your business. To be different, you have to build it, and map it out from start to finish. That takes some time. While the work is hard, the steps are quite simple:

  1. Clearly define your brand’s promise.
  2. Decide with what personality you want to deliver that promise.
  3. Map a customer experience that delivers your promise with that personality.
  4. Add magic spots (memorable moments) at key points in the customer experience.

If you commit to a experience differentiation strategy, you will actually get butts in the door. Maybe not tomorrow, but aren’t you tired of constantly chasing tomorrow?

So…what can you do that’s different?

Some tools to help with the Customer Experience Category:
The Customer Experience Map
Free recorded webinar: How to Create a Remarkable Experience

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  1. […] The Potential to Differentiate – This would seem like a branding article, no? But it’s the customer experience that gives a small business the real opportunity to differentiate. This is the article that explains the why and how. […]

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