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Differentiate Or Die

A six-step process to distinguish your business from the rest

As technology sweeps across the globe, it changes everything in its wake, including the way society conducts itself and the way material handling businesses operate.

1. Marketing
2. Communication
3. Image
4. Execution
5. Staff
6. Perspective

Technology is an accelerator—the fuel used to speed up the pace with which business value is created. It’s an enabler—the information and processes used to implement ideas, mandates and strategies. Technology has enabled people to manufacture and distribute faster, better and cheaper. Technology has enabled people to form, develop and grow partnerships for the common good. Manufacturers and distributors are now united to become bigger and better than they could possibly be alone—solving problems together, overcoming challenges together, providing more. Technology is now inextricably connected to businesses, enabling companies to solve customer problems more efficiently. At the same time, it provides opportunities to differentiate yourself profitably in the marketplace.

In order to survive, nay, thrive, in these chaotic times, you must step back, reassess your position, develop a “reason for being”—a point of difference—and exploit it to the hilt.

The secret for success on the path through the competitive jungle and the fast-moving marketplace lies quite simply in differentiating yourself from everything that’s out there.

Differentiation permits you to forge ahead. In fact, it forces you ahead. It catapults you in front of the competition. It encourages you to discover your uniqueness and capitalize on it. It puts you in a class by yourself. Adopt it aggressively, and differentiation will permeate every facet of your business, right down to the bottom line.

Take the six steps below to differentiate yourself, your products, your services and your business.

Step 1: Differentiate Your Marketing
Scrutinize how you go about getting and keeping customers. Check all the areas where you and your competition are indiscernible. Create desirable changes. Institute memorable differences. Keep your customers’ intangible needs in mind. That’s why they really do business with you. They buy your benefits, not features. They buy the promises you make. They buy the trust and confidence they have in you and your capabilities. They buy logistics solutions to their problems. They buy your consistency, value, convenience and reliability.

Remember that at just the moment you give up, someone else is seeing the same situation and saying, “My, what a great opportunity.” The opportunity is yours. Take it!

Give your customers reasons to do business with you again and again by giving them what they really want and need and even what they didn’t realize they wanted and needed.

The concept “marketing is theater” certainly applies to doing business today. Our marketplace is so overloaded with messages and noise, the opportunity to catch the mind of your customer has been decreased to a few seconds in time. Make your product memorable. Make your relationship to your customers memorable. Make your attitude and your policies memorable. Create a marketing presence that is theatrical and memorable.

Step 2: Differentiate Your Communication
Shouting from the rooftops, “Buy from me! Use me! Use my services! Use my equipment!” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Create and then communicate good reasons your customers should pass three other distributors offering identical equipment to patronize you. Create and then communicate good reasons your customers should trust you with their products.

Each time you communicate with customers, you send out signals of who you are and what you represent. Ensure your message is clear and that it is consistent with your market’s needs and demands. Ensure that it shouts benefits, promises and solutions. Make it exciting, memorable, daring and different!

Step 3: Differentiate Yor Image
Your image is your window to the marketplace. Your image of professionalism, your partnership with the best in the industry raises your level of trustworthiness. Your Web site, your knowledge and your ability to provide viable solutions all differentiate you from your competitors.

Use your daring approach to re-define and communicate your own image, your unique culture, your valuable resources so you can garner long-term confidence and loyalty.

Step 4: Differentiate Your Execution
Effective, memorable execution is critical to success. Look at your whole business and find ways to improve each part of the process—your leadership, your partnerships, your people, your business processes, your use of resources and your use of technology.

Everybody, Somebody, Anybody and Nobody.There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was sure Somebody would do it.

Anybody could have done it, but Nobody did it.

Somebody got angry about that because it was Everybody’s job.

Everybody thought Anybody could do it, but Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it.

It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody when actually Nobody asked Anybody.

Take a look at your execution through your customers’ eyes and rate yourself. Take action. Rate yourself again in a few weeks’ time to measure the improvement on those specifics that denied you an A+ score in the first place.

Recent statistics indicate that only five percent of companies are successful in their endeavors. When asked why this is the case, researchers simply reply that those five percent do things that the other 95 percent don’t. They differentiate themselves positively. They execute their plans. They use their resources. They capitalize on the value of their partnerships (both within and outside their organization). Look for and implement ways to differentiate yourself.

Step 5: Differentiate Your Staff
Share the vision of differentiation with your staff. Communicate it clearly and make them part of the team. Give them the training and the tools to do their jobs well. Ask yourself what stake you hold in their success. The sidebar, “Four People,” clearly illustrates your stake and your responsibility.

Step 6: Differentiate Your Perspective
Regard your business from a new, different vantage point. Recognize that our marketplace has changed dramatically, and change with it. Think differently. Act differently. Lead differently. Use a creative approach to strive to see more than anyone else while observing the same situation. Encourage differentiation in your partners and staff. Implement and sustain differentiation in yourself.

You are the catalyst for change—for differentiation, survival and success. Stop talking about “our situation” and do something about it. Remember that at just the moment you say, “I can’t do it. I give up,” someone else seeing the same situation is saying, “My, what a great opportunity.” The opportunity is yours. Take it!

A “business-as-usual” approach is outdated. Business is different today than it was yesterday, and it will be different again tomorrow. Your biggest challenge is to search out differentiation. Do not hide from it.

Take your position in a very different but no less exciting future. Make it your mandate today to differentiate yourself and your business. Let your experience, your knowledge, your perspective and your insight lead you on to successful differentiation. Hold the value of differentiation at the forefront of your material handling business plans. It cures many ills. It is the strategy that can frequently offset declining margins. Differentiate! Differentiate! Differentiate!

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Meet the Author
Sam Geist is a lecturer and trainer located in Markham, Ontario, Canada, and on the Web at www.samgeist.com.

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