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How to create sustainable differentiation in a competitive market

Differentiation is the ability to create a recognizable difference that makes a brand more attractive to consumers than its competition. It is a unique element that makes a business more valuable in the marketplace than all the other options available to consumers. There are many ways a brand can differentiate itself. But regardless of how a brand chooses to differentiate, all differentiation boils down to two things. First is differentiation that can be linked to a product. And second is differentiation that can be linked to services. Product differentiation is the weakest type of differentiation. And given time and chance, all product-related differentiation will fail.

They will fail because they are short-lived, perishable, and can be replicated, and copied. Research shows that even the most sophisticated new product feature can be replicated within three to six months. Product differentiation is thus unsustainable and can easily lead to commoditization and here is why. Anyone can replicate a product given the right resources and information. And because it takes a number of people to create a product useful information can leak from any source. The only kind of differentiation that will stand the test of time is service differentiation. Service differentiation is the most sustainable type of differentiation because it is built around a person or group of people. Human beings are the most difficult thing to replicate.

The problem however is that most businesses know little about the humans they serve and more about the product they create. They create misfit products and provide services that carry little relevance to consumers. Technology has made this even worse because some business owners now think that technology is the answer to sustainable differentiation. Technology is not the answer it is only an enabler of true differentiation. And its effectiveness is determined by the people behind the technology. Amazon is a perfect example of a company that uses technology to support great service differentiation. Amazon is the highest-rated company in the American Customer Satisfaction Index. It has invested millions in technology that helps them meet and exceed customers’ expectations. Its oneclick ordering process is about as convenient as it gets. Its order confirmation and tracking services are easy to access and usable by even the most inexperienced computer user. The key point here is that Amazon uses technology as a tool to deliver great service, not as an end in itself. Similarly, if you look at the major banks in Nigeria for example you will observe that they all have internet banking or mobile apps. But the experience the end-user gets when they interact with the different banks is different. The same technology but different experiences and outcome. What differentiates one bank from the other is not technology but the humans behind the technology.

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There are two key human factors that differentiate one bank from the other. These two key factors are reliability and responsiveness. Reliability means being dependable and delivering on commitments. Responsiveness means being eager to help, offer a number of options, and demonstrate flexibility. Because reliability and responsiveness are facilitated by human beings the experience is not the same across banks. Again, the key lesson to learn here is this. The service part of your business holds the key to sustainable differentiation. So, if you think you are in a commoditized market, a product-based business or that technology can give you sustainable differentiation. You need to think again. You can’t build sustainable differentiation based on a tool or products alone. And being a low price brand is also not the answer. Product differentiation at best create transactional short-term relationships. To build lasting relationships businesses must create service-based relationships and solve problems that are relevant to consumers.

So how can Businesses create sustainable differentiation?

To create sustainable differentiation businesses, must focus on creating three things. First, they must create a holistic ecosystem of Value that aligns with their customer’s value chain. Second, they must create a strong Personality or people strategy around these values. Third, they must establish a Unique service Delivery process that differentiates them from the competition. Let’s look at each of these three points in detail.

First is creating a holistic ecosystem of value. Your current business can do more to meet customer’s needs than it is doing right now. Creating a holistic system of value means understanding the customer’s pain and innovating solutions that remove those pains. The more your customers have to look elsewhere to get the help that they need. The higher the chances you will lose them to competitors. Creating a holistic system of value is all about understanding the full needs of consumers, providing what you can provide. And collaborating with other businesses to provide what is left. This is important for your business because it increases the rate of stickiness and makes it painful for customers to disconnect with your brand. Without a holistic system of value, you leave room for competitors to snatch away your most valuable customers.

Next, you need to create a strong personality around the value you have created so customers can connect with the person or people behind the brand. The days for soulless brands with no human connections are almost over. Customers want to connect with people solving their problems. And businesses must strategize ways to make this happen. Creating a strong personality behind a brand is not only beneficial for consumers but it also helps businesses create strong emotional bonds with customers that improve loyalty, reduce complaints, and create die-hard fans.

Next is a unique service delivery process. Creating and delivering excellent service takes hard work and operational efficiency. It requires explicitly defining what customers want. Measuring how well you deliver on customer requirements and hiring the type of people who are suited to providing good service. The biggest winner in the 21st century is this. Businesses that focus on excellent service delivery because excellent service delivery leaves indelible marks in the heart of customers. Thus, making it hard for them to detach from a brand. Building a strong relationship with consumers that is full of positive emotional equity is the only way to sustain a business long-term.

Creating sustainable differentiation is a daunting task. It requires commitment and the determination to be superior in excellent service delivery. Unlike popular belief sustainable differentiation has little to do with your business idea, your business model, products, or sophisticated technologies. It has everything to do with the quality of the humans behind a brand, the quality of their execution, and the quality of their service delivery. This is the only way to create differentiation that is hard to replicate.

Grace Agada is a Multiple Business Revenue Expert. She helps Brick and Mortar businesses solve limited Revenue Problems. She also helps them transition from industrial age thinking to digital age agility. Grace helps B2C Businesses Create Multiple Channels of Revenue in their business. She makes each channel independently profitable and Scale them using technology. There are three kinds of value Grace brings to B2C businesses. First, she helps them expand revenue and profit so they can thrive through generations of Crisis. Second, she future proof their businesses by connecting today’s revenue structure to tomorrow’s revenue system. Third, she uses a Collaborative Value innovation Process to help businesses dominate the market and Gain Market Share. If you want to create technology-enabled multiple streams of income in your business, Grace is your most helpful Advisor.

The Nigerian Military says it’s Air Task Force (ATF) of Operation Lafiya Dole has destroyed a Boko Haram Tactical Command Centre and killed some of their fighters at Yuwe in the Sambisa Forest area of Borno State.

John Enenche, Coordinator of Defence Media Operations (DMO) who disclosed this in a statement in abuja, said the new feat is in continuation of air interdiction missions being conducted under the subsidiary Operation Long Reach to unhinge the leadership of the Boko Haram Terrorists in the North East.

Enenche said the operation was executed on 17 June after series of Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions observed significant presence of BHTS in the settlement.

The Coordinator said the ISR also established that a prominent compound with solar panel-mounted rooftop and a large tree in the middle with a nearby flag-mounted sentry post was being used by the BHTS to coordinate their operations in the area.

“Nigerian Air Force (NAF) fighter jets dispatched by the ATF to take out the Command Centre took turns in attacking the location scoring accurate hits, leading to the destruction of the Centre and surrounding structures as well as the neutralization of several fighters”, Enenche said.

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