I hope you like the alliterative heading for the blog which was born from some work I’ve been doing recently for a client. I’m not sure that diffident is exactly the right word but there was no way that I was going to ditch it when it looks so beautiful set against all those “diff” words.
Anyway, I was struck recently by the reluctance of some people to fully embrace the concept and importance of aggressive differentiation. Whilst I’ve long understood that different types of people reach decisions about products (and lots of other things too) in different ways based on our bias towards one of the following psychological functions (Intuition, thinking, feeling and sensing), I’ve seldom before encountered this on the vendor side of the marketing battle.
I’m certainly not sitting in judgement on this. On the contrary it has made me look carefully at the way I work with my clients moving forward. My client has a very strong business and is growing at an incredible rate but they are starting to encounter stiff competition hence my involvement. I’ve been working on strategies to help to grab a position in the market for them that will undermine their competitors and am pretty pleased with the results. It’s been a great project and I’ve really enjoyed working with them, they are top people and have great products. The problem lies in their reluctance to stick out their chest, beat the drum and proclaim their greatness. They are, I guess you would say, corporately shy.
It made me dust off my copy of Differentiate or Die by Jack Trout to review the psychology of differentiation but this time from the perspective of the vendor. It set me thinking there is no “one” way to build differentiation strategy. Whilst it’s important to be able to understand the behaviour of your target audience, it’s also important to ensure that you are happy with the chosen strategy and that it sits well with the philosophy and perhaps even the ideology of the company itself.
For example could Company A, staffed and populated by conservative and modest management feel comfortable going to market with a message of “We’re different from Company B because we do X better than them”? It’s not an easy step for them to take. The opposite of this would be to expect a vendor who really understands competitive differentiation such Oracle to say “Test our product and it will speak for itself”. Whilst this might be true, a company like Oracle will never turn up the opportunity to thrust the differentiation dagger into the chest of the competition.
Somewhere in the middle lies the truth I guess. There is immense credibility, not to mention the moral high ground in looking to let your product win the battle for you. But equally, aggressive marketing by aggressive competitors can cause you to be de-positioned in the eyes of your prospects such that they think they know where you are positioned and won’t even bother to evaluate the product.
So I’m going to cover this subject in a series of short blogs taking a look how differentiation works from a psychological perspective and how this translates into corporate psychology.