A selection from the new book: Different Rules – the B2B Marketer’s Guidebook to Product Differentiation

B2B “Differentiation” idea starters – Part 4

By Chris Wirthwein

Problem-solving ability

Once, I took a trip through the plant of a metal fabricator client with Paul, the sales and marketing director. Mid-tour, he turned to me and said, “Detour…this way.” He darted through a doorway under a sign that said, “Engineering Department.” Inside, Paul sidled up to a CAD workstation and asked the engineer manning it a question. After some back and forths and a few nods, the two landed on a resolution. Just as quickly, Paul pivoted back into the hallway and we continued the tour. As we walked, Paul explained how Kevin, the engineer, had come up with a slight redesign to the customer’s blueprint. The tweak added strength to the part and also reduced manufacturing cost. “Is that a special service you provide just to certain customers?” I asked. “Nope,” Paul said. “We do it for any customer. Look, when we have an idea we think will improve a part design or reduce cost, we bring it up.” By “all the time” he really meant it. In their world, customer blueprints first went for a “problem solving” engineering review before moving to the estimating team. “Do your competitors do this?” I asked. Paul said he didn’t really know. And that was that.

Later, as our agency worked on a new marketing campaign for Paul’s company, that scene came flooding back. How could we make the “service” I’d witnessed into a relevant differentiator? Could we somehow highlight their problem-solving capability and market it? Could we brand it? Give it a name? Highlight the engineering acumen they delivered to their customers? Yes, yes, yes and yes. And that’s exactly what we did.

We coined a name for the engineering group and their ability to enhance part designs. We called it the “Methods Improvement Team” or “MIT.” (Yes, the “engineering” flavor of the acronym was intentional.) You’ll remember Paul said he didn’t know if his competitors offered something similar. In the end, this ended up not mattering at all. No competitors talked about it in their marketing. Our new campaign did.

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Chris Wirthwein is Senior Director for 5MetaCom, a marketing agency that develops strategies and campaigns to differentiate B2B technical and scientific products. He has authored three marketing books, including his latest, Different Rules: The B2B Marketer’s Guidebook to Product Differentiation. You can reach Chris on LinkedIn or at cwirthwein@5metacom.com.

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