If you sell apples, and someone else down the pavement also sell apples, how do you set yourself apart? How do you make sure people buy from you, instead of the other guy?

It’s the reality many businesses face.

Just the other day a senior manager at a company asked me this very question: “how do we set ourselves apart if we essentially do what everyone else is doing?”

The obvious way to differentiate yourself is through your price. Your price is a signal to the market. The problem is that most companies desperate for sales choose to send the wrong signal by going cheaper. Dropping your price is a slippery slope and a race to the bottom. It inevitably leads to profit erosion and eventual business failure. Don’t be cheaper. Be better.

But how can you be better if what you sell is essentially the same as the other guy? This is where you need to look beyond the product to the stuff you do around it. It is the little things that set a business apart.

What if you give each apple a wipe before you hand it over to the customer? The other guy does not do that. What if you know where the apples are from, and can tell a story about it to the customer? What if you knew your regular customers by name, and asked them how they’re doing? The other guy does not do that.

Too often, in a desperate effort to stand out, companies try to be the cheapest. Obviously this will get attention, but they’ve also played their last card. Now they are in a corner and left in the hands of market forces who will rarely allow them to raise prices again.

Find your difference in the subtleties of customer service, the values of your business, the reason why you are doing what you are doing and the relationships you build. Let the other guy drop his price. Let him be the cheapest!

  1. Berdene

    I think in our endeavours to develop and expand a business we forget the what sparked the business idea and why we started it (which is often quite, noble). Then everything becomes somewhat artificial, we have to start brainstorming ideas to appear different, real , caring and implement all kinds of ways to make the customer feel important and differentiate ourselves/products. The reality is if we stay true, honest and genuinely care for the customer’s needs we don’t have to fluff around and put on such a show, the business will grow when we focus on doing a great job, provide quality, and do it for the right reasons. I think the consumers are starting to join the dots, they can spot the real from the fake, as in food, sodas, diet, exercise, insurance, medical aid and hopefully soon media content. Companies spend trillions annually to appear caring, professional, trustworthy, imagine if all the resources were invested in actually providing the quality and service. Really like your articles and wishing you great future Bernard!

    • Bernard Jansen

      This is my favourite comment on my blog so far. Thank you Berdene! Yes, I agree, there is too much noisy, over the top, marketing happening and not enough quality, service and a focus on getting the basics right! Marketing does not have to be noisy and loud and “in-your-face”. Sometimes the best type of marketing is a soft whisper that says: this is really good, you got to try it!

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