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

B2B “Differentiators” to avoid – Part 3

By Chris Wirthwein

Thousands upon thousands of B2B marketers use similar messages, including, I’d be willing to bet, competitors of yours. You can’t be different when you say the same thing as a competitor. Here’s a generic message to avoid.

Broad product lines/service offerings

Those that hype a broad line, inadvertently make the point that they do not specialize. It’s okay to differentiate on being narrow and deep. But it’s not okay to differentiate on broad and shallow. For instance, let’s say you offer thousands upon thousands of different diamond-coated cutting tools. That shows narrowness and depth – specialization – not breadth. On the other hand, when you position yourself as broad this implies you do everything or darned near everything well. Who would believe this?

Some firms can be successful selling broad product lines. However, when you look closer you tend to find lots of choices in a narrow area. Take General Motors. You could say GM offers a broad line: compact cars, luxury cars, pickup trucks, SUVs, minivans, crossovers, work trucks, etc. But truth is, of the millions of things they could sell, they only sell automobiles.

Distributors or resellers often tout broadness. Take Grainger, a B2B distributor, and “North America’s leading broad line supplier of maintenance, repair and operating (MRO) products…” according to their website. Grainger resells specialized products made by thousands of their suppliers into a broad market (MRO). To be fair, Grainger positions their broad line as a differentiator using this tagline: “The one product you need, + 1.5 million more.” Not bad, if you ask me. As a distributor of supplies, their “we’ve got whatever you need” makes sense. But for most B2B product marketers, specialization, rather than a broad offering, provides far greater opportunities to differentiate.

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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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