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and make sure they still apply.

This is the second in a series of blog posts designed to help peoplein the technology industry learn to position their brands more effectively. In this post, well cover another critical concept you must master in order to effectively position your technology brand:

Once youvedetermined the competitive frame of referencein which your brand should be positioned, the next step is to determine the points of difference and points of parity that distinguish the brand within that competitive frame of reference (well come back to points of parity in our next post). Remember, brands can never been positioned in a vacuum, so it is important to have your competitive frame of reference front and center as you start to investigate points of difference.

Points of difference, also referred to as differentiators or key differentiators, are characteristics of a brand that make it stand out from other competing brands.

But it isnt enough for your brand to just bedifferentthan the competition. It must be different in a way that isdesirableto potential customers anddeliverableby the brand.

So the best points of difference have three key characteristics:

1)Desirable: something that people actually want or would value

2)Deliverable: a promise the brand can actually deliver on (and peoplewill believeit can deliver on)

3)Differentiated: something that is distinct from what other competitive brands offer

Lets put this into practice by determining the points of difference for Supplyzus, the fake Uber of office supplies company we introduced in the post aboutcompetitive frames of reference.

As you may remember from theprevious post, the primary competitive frame of reference for Supplyzus (a company that is kind of likeOrderUpfor office supplies) isoffice supply merchants. So as you think about what differentiates Supplyzus from its competitors, youll want to start by focusing on theoffice supply merchantscompetitive frame of reference.

Next, brainstorm as many competitors as you can within this frame of reference.

The two key leading office supply merchants are Staples and Office Depot/OfficeMax (which merged in 2013). But there are also online office supply merchants,杭州夜生活 including Uline, Quill, and . And there are larger retailers that stock office supplies, even though it is not their main business, like m, Target, Walmart, Costco, and Best Buy. Im sure you can think of even more competitors, but for the sake of simplicity, lets start here.

Once youve brainstormed this list of competitors, begin to think about why a customer might buy from you instead of any of them.

Would they buy from you because of yourselectionof office supplies? Well, you do have an amazing selection, but Staples, Office Depot, Uline, Quill, and OfficeSupply.com can carry everything you can carry, and in certain categories, they have an even broader selection. So while selection isdesirableto customers anddeliverableby your brand, it is notdifferentiatedfrom the competition. It may differentiate you from some competitors (you have a better selection than Target or Walmart, after all), but it is probably not a key point of difference.

Would they buy from you because of thequalityof your office supplies? Again, you have good quality products, but so does everyone else in the competitive frame of reference. Desirable: check. Deliverable: check. Differentiated: not so much

Then it hits you. One thing that really makes you stand out from all of these competitors isdelivery speed. Like I said earlier, Supplyzus is essentially the take out food delivery equivalent for office supplies. Place your order, and a friendly delivery person shows up at your office in as little as an hour. If someone needs office supplies fast, they need Supplyzus. Delivery speed is absolutely a key point of difference, because it is something customers want (desirable), a promise the brand can guarantee (deliverable), and no one else offers this service (differentiated).

What else might differentiate Supplyzus? Another interesting thought is that Supplyzus is a modern, 21st century version of an office supply merchant. Your online ordering app was designed from the ground up specifically to give customers a great mobile experience. Customers can follow their delivery driver online via GPS tracking, so they know exactly when their order will arrive. They can send for a driver to pick up returns with one click on their smartphone. So asimple, modern ordering processis another key point of difference for the brand.

Finally, you think of a third key point of difference. Doing business with Supplyzus isfun! Its the opposite of the antiseptic, big box experience of Staples and Office Depot. Its more personal than ordering from Amazon.com or OfficeSupply.com. Supplyzus has a sense of humor. The delivery drivers show up with a big neon-colored paperclip on the roof of their car and smiles on their faces. Every order comes with a small surprise gift just for the person placing the order.

And now you have them: three key points of difference that distinguish your brand from competitors in theoffice supply merchantcompetitive frame of reference:

Now that you have the key points of difference in your primary competitive frame of reference you can advance to the bonus round  analyzing secondary competitive frames of reference. Each time you move to a new competitive frame of reference, you need to reexamine your points of difference, and make sure they still apply.

For Supplyzus, we defined the secondary competitive frames of reference asbusiness-to-business delivery servicesandUber of ________ companies.

Against other business-to-business delivery services, thefastpoint of difference isnt quite as powerful, since several other local services have same-day delivery.

But no one has a simple, modern ordering process that matches yours. So as you expand beyond office supplies into other types of business supplies (like restaurant supplies, plumbing supplies, etc.), thesimple & modernpoint of difference becomes even more important.

Funis still also an important point of difference, but you think of two additional points of difference that make you stand out in the business-to-business delivery market:scaleandpricing. Because Supplyzus operates nationally, it has scale and pricing power that are unmatched by any local delivery companies. This means that our prices are always lower than other delivery services, and our national reach means we have the money to invest more in continuing to improve our technology, logistics, and selection.

So in this secondary competitive frame of reference, our key differentiators are:

Youll want to repeat this same activity for any other secondary frames of reference.

So how do you use these points of difference in practice?

Any time you are creating new brand content, start by asking yourself, who is my audience for this content? If it is potential customers who would be deciding between you and other competitors in the primary frame of reference (office supply merchantsin this case), youll focus on the first set of differentiators.

But if the audience for your content is potential customers who would be choosing between Supplyzus and other business delivery services, youll want to focus on the second set of differentiators.

New Kind has a simple, step-by-step process to get your tech company startedidentifying its key points of difference. Be sure to check it out on our site.

In our next post, well introduce the idea of points of parity, the jujitsu moves of positioning.

Originally published onnewkind.comon March 15, 2016.

Head of Marketing, Tidelift. Author of The Ad-Free Brand.

A branding firm for organizations that are inventing or reinventing themselves. We bring people together to share in the adventure of creating the future.

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