Different vs. Better

In a world where people strive to be the best at what they do, we often lose sight of the fact that there is no “best” when it comes to products and services. There is no best car. There is no best restaurant. There is no best hotel. The concept of “best” or “better” is subjective. Is blueberry pie better than banana cream pie? Depends whom you ask. But we can say blueberry pie is different, because it has blueberries, which contain antioxidants, which are good for you and may improve your health.

A recent study across a variety of industries  asked both executives and their customers how strongly differentiated the product or service was from their perspective. While 80% of executives believed their product or service was highly differentiated, only 8% of customers agreed with them. This is called drinking the company Kool-Aid.

When comparing offerings, customers don’t want to hear how your product is better. Because there’s a good chance it’s not in their eyes. Customers want to know this: what’s the differentiated value your product provides to them? Differentiated value. Not bells and whistles.

Another study of 200 companies showed that 93% of the top performers have a strong form of differentiation at their core. Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos has this take on it: “You want to look at what other companies are doing. It’s very important not to be hermetically sealed. But you don’t want to look at it as if, ‘Okay, we’re going to copy that.’ You want to look at it and say, ‘That’s very interesting. What can we be inspired to do as a result of that?’ And then put your own unique twist on it.”

Your products and services are not better. Hopefully, they’re different in ways that customers value. Your job is to identify that differentiated value and communicate it in a compelling way to the customers who mean the most to your business.

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