A selection from the new book: Different Rules – the B2B Marketer’s Guidebook to Product Differentiation
B2B “Differentiation” idea starters – Part 5
By Chris Wirthwein
We used a “process” differentiator for a client that made components and sold them to U.S.-based original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) of heavy equipment. Our client faced competition mainly from overseas makers with a cost/price advantage. This had begun to put pressure on our client’s margins. As part of a brand differentiation workshop, our agency conducted discovery research interviews with their customers. One key finding stood out. Many customers remarked, unaided, on how easy it was to do business with our client. They told us how the company answered phones promptly. They explained how much they liked being able to talk with knowledgeable employees, instead of “call center” contractors. Most described the people as helpful and well-trained. Many remarked about the lack of language barriers, a big difference compared to some in the market. Nearly every customer said this personal service set the company apart. Almost to a person, customers voiced appreciation for how quickly and efficiently our client’s people provided answers.
Our interviews also covered products. In this area, however, most of products – our client’s and their competitors’ – were seen as similar. The surprising thing about what we learned was that our client had been making no mention of their highly differentiated service – real, live people, knowledgeable and helpful people – not on their website, nor in any of their marketing materials. The marketing message we developed addressed this. Yet if not for the willingness of the client to pursue new ways of communicating their service difference, their sameness would have continued. Even more scary was something the company CEO told us. He said they had been leaning toward discontinuing their employee phone support and farming that work out to an off-shore call center as a cost cutting measure. “Without the differentiation research we would have made a grave mistake,” he explained to me later.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.