Inexpensive differentiation to easily outdistance your competitors (while selling more)

Businesses look for opportunities to differentiate themselves from their competitors. In doing so, they hope to capture more marketshare of customers who see their point of differentiation as a must-have.

Sales funnel differentiationOpportunities to differentiate are often found in technology, service, price, systems, or offering: A business might be a technical innovator, allowing them to deliver the most advanced services; a business might provide their customers with a level of care that is unmatched by others; a business might try the low-priced-provider point of differentiation… and so on.

Each of these options can be expensive — in the short term during the technical innovation effort or in the long term when competing on price against other hungry competitors. But there is another point of differentiation that allows you to outdistance your competitors while also increasing sales (and not lowering your price).

THE SALES FUNNEL AS A POINT OF DIFFERENTIATION
The sales funnel is an opportunity to create a point of differentiation, and it’s an ideal opportunity especially for businesses that can’t afford to be technical innovators or low-priced providers. Sales funnel innovation is very simple: It’s achieved by examining the sales funnels that are common in the industry and making yours compelling but completely unique.

Consider the fast food industry: The earliest fast food restaurants were sales funnel differentiators, putting the purchase ahead of the meal. The point of transaction isn’t the only place to differentiate. If everyone else in your industry is using newsletters to grow their customers base, perhaps there is some other kind of way to capture leads. I think this is a reason why whitepapers have risen in popularity in recent years. If everyone else in your industry is using a face-to-face sales presentation to close the deal, consider something else.

IT’S EASIER THAN YOU THINK
It’s not that you have to create a new way to market. You just to figure out what all of your competitors are doing and do something different. What about a car dealership that offers seminars? Or a dentist that markets with a subscription-based newsletter? They’re not inventing new sales funnel techniques, they’re just mixing in new ideas that the other guys aren’t touching.

In the heavily regulated financial and real estate industries — two industries I work very closely with, but two industries whose offerings are cookie-cutter — this is one of the only ways that you can differentiate. Rather than using the standard bus-bench or cold-calling marketing methods, financial and real estate professionals can use creative ways to build customer lists and relationships.

SPECIFIC SALES FUNNEL OPPORTUNITIES
Not sure where to start? Map out the “average” sales funnel in your industry and figure out what happens at each stage. Then get creative. Can you move the transaction around? Are there different ways to find an audience? Are there different ways to identify leads? Are there different ways to qualify prospects?

Find something different and test it to see if it works. The reason that it’s not in use now as a best practice in your industry could be because it doesn’t work. Or, it could be because no one uses it. Test it, modify it, test it again. Figure out whether or not this is a good use of your investment.

Doing something that no one else is doing is certainly a risk. But it’s also an opportunity for you to be different from your competition without lowering your price.

[Photo credit: VisualPanic]

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