i’m going a bit out on a limb here, but believe the single most important marketing decision you can make is your differentiator. Of course, there are other business decisions beyond marketing, and fundamental values to consider, but your ultimate success and profitability will arise from your uniqueness in the marketplace, or at least your achievement of “first in mind-space” status among current and potential clients.
Consider for example the correlation of differentiation and branding and its implications for your business (and your competitors).
Google, for example, came out of nowhere with a couple of powerful differentiators. First, it discovered the route to determining search relevance related to how a website’s backlinks were recognized by other sites. Second, and more importantly from a business perspective, it created an online auction for carefully rationed advertising space.
The latter process turned the advertising (and media) industry on its head. Especially in the early years, advertisers might have had to pay $5,000 for a print ad in a specialty industry publication, waiting a month or two for the ad to run, and not knowing if it would generate a single profitable lead.
Now, especially in an uncrowded market, the advertiser could buy a click to his website for $1.00 — and see it convert within days or even hours/minutes into an order.
Now there’s a differentiator that truly changed the world. (I’m lucky compared to many other traditionally print media outlets that have been crashing and burning. We’ve stayed firmly focused on our niche with regional construction industry titles and adapted to an online model. And as a hedge, I’ve built healthy relationships with the Google/Alphabet and purchased a few shares of GOOGL. for my retirement account.)
While I don’t think any of us can reach Google’s level, we all can certainly survive and thrive by recognizing and enhancing our differentiator. It can be your defence against big competitors, and it can allow you to maintain and grow your business (with reasonable margins) when others around you are failing.
In conclusion, if you know you have a good differentiator, and you can tell that by the ease with which you acquire clients, publicity, and profitability because of your specialized niche/space/focus, then the process is simple: Work on enhancing and improving it.
If you don’t feel you have a good differentiator, before you pour money into marketing and business development strategies (and before your business fails), make the process of defining and selecting, and then implementing, your differentiator your highest priority.
As I observed at the outset of this series, the best differentiators are usually natural and obvious. However, I recognize that in some cases you won’t know for sure or aren’t happy with your current message/distinction. Then the selection and testing process will require effort, resources, and some pain. But I’m confident you will end up better for the journey and struggle.