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15 actions that create successful competitive differentiation By : Roy Osing

Successful competitive differentiation doesn't happen at the 50,000' level; separating yourself from your competition "in the clouds" is aspirational at best.
It makes you feel good to have the objective, but little happens to turn it into a reality.

Why is successful competitive differentiation difficult to achieve?

Attention and focus need to be applied to the detailed specific performance drivers of differentiation.

The aspiration is easy, but if you don't bear down on the detailed elements that in harmony produce a believable differentiation claim, you will merely have a "wish and a prayer" that will never happen.

These action items will successfully differentiate you from your competition.

1. Create the strategic context 

Traditional business planning methods have issues; they’re all screwed up. They are generally viewed as a time consuming and expensive process. People don’t look to define what your competitive claim should "look like" and the organization capabilities that should be given priority.

Learn how to differentiate your organization with a competitive claim that is unique. These tips from the TalentCulture Community can help get you there to answer the question "Why should I do business with you and not your competitors?"

3. Avoid perfection; trying to get your competitive claim "exactly right". Pour your soul into execution; learn and refine it as you go.

4. Have a direct line of sight between all employees and your differentiation strategy to ensure each individual knows their role in execution 

5. Repel mass anything. The herd believes in mass marketing. Sustainable differentiation is the result of focusing on individuals and not mass markets.

6. Go for premium prices. Provide remarkable value to command higher prices than your competition. Low prices = low value = commodity = no differentiation.

7. Resist copying. Copying is a non-starter  for differentiation. You may get operational improvements from copying but you will NEVER stand-out strategically. 

8. Align internal "systems". Internal infrastructure - policies, compensation, service strategy, reward programs, IT, web and social media - must all work together to deliver your differentiation claim. Inconsistency in delivery renders your claim not believable.

9. Cultivate leaders that ask "How can I help?"  rather than "Do this!" as the vehicle to clear roadblocks and enable execution. Successful differentiation = servant leadership. Period.

10. Shed the impulse to control everything. Empower people; trust customers (eliminate policies intended to control the dishonest few).

11. Surprise your customers with what they DON'T expect. This shows you care about delighting them and is a bold move to move away from the commoners.

12. Think tops down let growth targets drive the essence of your differentiation strategy. The more bold the growth goals, the more creative your strategy had to be.

13. Serve customers. Eliminate the notion of "customer service". You service computers; you serve people. Subordinating your organization to the client   means treating your customers in an exemplary way which creates loyalty and cannot be easily replicated by competitors. 

14. Hire for goosebumps  Recruit people based on their proven ability and innate desire to serve others. Their stories are heartwarming and emotional and give you goosebumps. 

Goosebumps = a human organization = a competitive advantage. 

15. Renew your strategy annually. Successful differentiation today is quickly erased by the actions of an aggressive competitor. 

If you are diligent in creating an organization capable of implementing this action plan, you will not only successfully differentiate yourself TODAY, you will also sustain in for the long term.

It's not rocket science; just hard work.

About Author

Roy Osing (@royosing) is a former President and CMO with over 33 years of leadership experience covering all the major business functions including business strategy, marketing, sales, customer service and people development. He is a blogger, content marketer, educator, coach, adviser and the author of the book series Be Different or Be Dead

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