Logo of IndustRetail

Making Sure Your Points Of Differentiation Are Meaningful To Your Target Audience: The 5th Step To Mastering The Lost Art Of Differentiation

Jack Welch's quote

Branding, Distributor Marketing, Industrial Branding, Industrial Marketing, Industrial MRO Marketing, Marketing, MRO Branding, MRO Marketing

PART 5 OF 6.5

Author’s note: IndustRetail blog is exploring the Six-and-a-half Steps to Mastering the Lost Art of Differentiation. The first article examined the first step—identifying your key targets. The second article looked at what makes you different. The third explored competitive influences. The previous post identified how to analyze your competitive differences. This is the fifth article in the series.


Imagine a manufacturer’s rep visiting your distributorship and introducing a new product that is different than anything else on the market: gluten-free safety gloves.

Their excitement is uncontained. NOBODY ELSE can offer this product. They’ve done the research, and not a single glove manufacturer offers gluten-free gloves. Well…yes, that’s true. But who cares?

You pick your jaw up off the floor, astonished at this oblivious waste of your time and eagerly walk the rep out the door, vowing to convert your glove business to a manufacturer more in touch with your customers’ needs.

Admittedly, this is a ridiculous example…but is it any more ridiculous than me-too blathering that many of your peers pass off as “marketing?”

Let me illustrate my point. These are actual taglines in use by industrial distributors today. The names are omitted to protect the guilty.

  • Service is the difference. (Like I was looking for a distributor that had crappy service.)

  • Your industrial supply source. (Oh, you mean an industrial distributor is also an industrial supply source?)

  • A supply company. (See above)

  • Since 19##. (We spent a long time working on that one, didn’t we?)

  • Partner with experience. (Nope, I’m looking for a distributor with no experience at all.)

At least the glove guy tried.

The focus of this series is about mastering the lost art of differentiation. Different, being the root of the key word. The underlying assumption beyond different, is relevant.

Some differences aren’t valuable. Let’s assume you sell blue widgets.  Your competitor sells green ones. But the widgets are buried deep inside machinery and your customer doesn’t require color coding. Then widget color is not a meaningful differentiator. Find something else to separate your brand.

In other words, you need to identify the differences your customers are willing to pay for. Remember, not every customer has the same set of priorities and preferences.

During your analysis phase, you identified the things that are different about your business. Now is the time to filter those differences with importance and value. It’s not enough to be different. Your difference has to be better…at least for your chosen market segment(s).

Customers who are focused on just-in-time delivery may be willing to pay more for it. If that’s your forte, focus on it—even at the expense of customers who don’t value just-in-time delivery. You can’t be all things to all people. Define your niche, exploit it and ignore everything outside of it.

All of this, of course, starts with your customer. During this phase of the process, you need to continue to do your research, but shift from what to why questions:

  • Why do you do business with us?

  • Why do you need that?

  • Why is that important to you?

Your best customers’ answers to those kinds of questions will reveal your unique value proposition. It may be an expertise you offer. It may be a service or delivery channel. When you hear the same feedback over and over, you’ve found the gold!

Those that truly differentiate keep their fingers on that pulse. They make sure it remains important, improve upon it and make it difficult to copy. Moreover they tell that story in engaging and impactful ways…they make it clear that’s why you should do business with them and show how they do it—whatever “it” is—better.


Tim Rasmussen

 Web Directory Blogging Fusion Blog Directory

Get Rivet | MRO in your inbox

Co-Op Marketing infographics