6 B2B SMB problems and how to fix them - no. 1: Differentiation

At Usher & Spur, we've identified six major problems B2B SMBs have. Over the next few weeks, we'll be covering these problems in no particular order in a series of posts. Today's problem is: "People don't understand why we're better." In other words, they don't understand why they should buy your solution rather than some other company's.

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A few years ago, a great blog post from the UK's Inflexion Point asked an extremely pertinent question: What sets you apart? The author, Bob Apollo, described it as "the single most important question that any organisation in a competitive market needs to answer." Since there are very few companies that don't have any competition, that makes it important indeed.

In case you happen to think you're one of those rare companies that has a unique solution, please remember that a competitive solution is any alternative that solves the customer's problem. To send a document, you can:

  • fax it
  • scan and email it
  • snap it with your phone and text or email it
  • photocopy and snail-mail it

See what we mean?  

Be different before better

The Inflexion Point post gave some solid tips on how to stand out from the crowd, which we've summarized below. And it makes the valid point that "helping people understand why you're better" is about more than just showing competitive advantage.

  • Get your employees on message first - because consistency across all customer touch-points is essential.
  • Different comes before better - because 'different' is about being distinctive and memorable so prospects are motivated to learn more.

  • Start with why - because the most valuable position in any market belongs to the organisation with the fresh perspective, that the most switched-on customers are turning to today.

  • Developing a distinctive voice - because looking, sounding and feeling different from your competitors will intrigue potential customers and turn existing ones into enthusiastic advocates.

  • Stories, not pitches - because that's how your most successful sales people already tell it.

Have the courage to stand out

At Usher & Spur, helping your potential customers to understand why you're better starts with taking a good look at your competition. What are your competitors saying in general? Are they talking to anyone in particular? How are they saying what they're saying? This helps you figure out the following:

  • Whether there's a niche you can occupy - is there a target audience not currently addressed? is there a need for a product variation, that you could fill?  
  • What is the baseline you need to differ from - do your competitors all say the same things? in the same way? do they all make the same offer?
  • What you have that others don't have - is there anything unique about your offer, not just your product but the ancillary services and even terms? is your total product better?
  • What you can do that others can't do - could you offer something that no-one else currently has the capabilities to offer? in terms of total product? can you say something different? in a different way?

Knowing where you stand is not enough to make you stand out. And standing out, let's be real, takes courage. Remember when you were a kid at school? So many companies worry that potential customers won't understand what they do if they don't use the same words as their competitors. They too want to be insightful, seamless, actionable, paradigm-shifting and deep-diving. But customers don't care.

Customers want to know how you're going to change their world. They need to be able to relate to your vision. They need to be able to understand how you'll solve their problems. And they don't want to have to decipher any of that from jargon. Nor do they want to see yet another website like any other.

Take a deeper look at the Inflexion Point post by clicking here. Check out the Simon Sinek TED talk on starting with why, even if you've already seen it. Here's a short version. Be courageous.

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What companies do you know that have had the courage to stand out from the crowd? Tell us below.