How to Avoid Drowning in the Sea of Sameness

May 5th, 2016 by Kelly Staruck

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So you think you stand out among your competitors – but just how different do you appear to customers? We find that as much as our clients think they are differentiated from their competitors, their prospects often view their offerings and capabilities as very much the same. Sometimes it’s a similar look and feel. Other times it’s almost the same talking points. And on occasion, it’s both. A teacher might say it looks like everyone is using the same cheat sheet. So how do you know if you are truly differentiated from your competitors, and what can you do to avoid the sea of sameness? First you have to get to know yourself. This means talking to your employees – and not just high level managers.

1. You need a first-hand account from those who deal directly with customers.

Customer facing employees are the ones that project your image, and understanding what they say/do is key. It’s also important to know if they tell the same story. This means looking at everything produced about you… website, marketing materials, news/articles, social media, etc., and then asking, “are these perspectives consistent?” And do they tell a story that you live and breathe.

2. The next step is to talk to your customers.

Find out what they think of you, what they see and hear. What is their experience with your brand? Do they drink your Kool-Aid? Is it in line with what they need? Does it speak their language? Do you stand out in a crowd?

3. And finally you have to take a close, honest look at the competition.

Maybe even a few companies that you want to emulate. Understanding the competitive landscape from a communications perspective is different than a standard SWOT analysis. Do you look, talk or walk like them? How do your customers perceive those competitors? Where are the opportunities to stand out?

 

These conversations may be difficult to have yourself because stakeholders may or may not be comfortable sharing their opinions. As Jeff Bezos, Founder & CEO of Amazon, once said…

Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room.

And taking a hard look at yourself (or with a partner) is not easy to do without bias. But these conversations need to happen if you want an accurate and true evaluation of your brand.