By Keith Shields, CEO at Designli
Thanks to technology, the world is a lot smaller than it used to be. We have access to anything we want via the internet, brought directly to our door. We can easily communicate with project teams no matter their location -- as long as online connections are available. Because of this globalization, we can now make purchases and use vendors from just about anywhere.
The problem with nearly infinite accessibility is commoditization. Your company is competing with others in your industry around the world, not just locally. It’s a tough challenge to overcome, since very few products and services are truly revolutionary.
While there are certainly differences between what you offer and what your competitors offer, most prospects would struggle to see the difference, especially until you get them to the point of your sales and marketing funnel where they are willing to listen to you communicating that difference.
So, how can you escape the commoditization trap? Here are three strategies to consider.
1. Add a mission-critical service to a standard offering.
Customers are always looking for greater return on investment and ways to maximize the value of what they’re purchasing. No matter the industry, people seek optimization -- better performance, increased capacity, more enjoyment, etc. Consider what add-on services could help your customers get more out of your standard offering.
To boost the impact of your add-on service, think deeply what your prospects and customers value. What are they trying to accomplish? What matters most to them? If you can help them move the needle toward their goals, suddenly you become the vendor of choice. Providing a mission-critical service as an add-on to a commoditized offering may be just the action that rescues you from the commoditization trap.
2. Surprise prospects and clients with an exceptional experience.
Despite all the popular talk about customer experience these days, many companies are failing to delight customers. In my experience, the majority of businesses are content to keep customers just happy enough that they don’t jump ship. But if this is the limit of your focus on customer experience, you’re missing a prime opportunity to break through commoditization.
Creating a consistent customer experience that exceeds expectations will set your company apart. Brainstorm ways to surprise prospects and customers with the unexpected -- send a special note, mail a book that you know would benefit them (bonus points if the book demonstrates how your expertise can help them reach their goals), remember dates or holidays that are meaningful to them, etc.
This is a key differentiator for our business, which provides the highly commoditized service of custom software development. Sending snail-mail notes and books that directly apply to helping the customer build a better digital product, and also emphasizing speedy and consistent communication, allows us to break through the noise of the dozens of firms our customers might be shopping around with before making a decision.
3. Understand your prospects’ decision-making process.
Gaining a thorough understanding of how your prospects make decisions will also give you an opportunity to stand out. How do your prospects decide which vendor to choose or which company to buy from? What questions are they asking? What criteria are most important to them? Knowing what your prospects’ decision making process looks like will help you tailor your pitch and messaging to match what they’re looking for.
If your marketing materials and sales team are discussing benefits that aren’t at the top of your prospects’ lists, then prospects are likely to compare you to your competition by price. If, on the other hand, you speak directly to what matters to your prospects, you’ll be viewed differently. They’ll have confidence that you’re aligned with them.
Stay focused on your prospects’ most pressing pain points and the solution that fully solves their problems (and helps them achieve their agendas). This is why our team, in particular, has a very different pitch and sales process for startups and entrepreneurs than we do for established enterprises looking to build a custom software product.
There’s no template to follow to beat commoditization, since every industry and market segment has different challenges and struggles. But picking one or more of these strategies and creating your own unique spin on them will differentiate you in the eyes of prospects and customers.
Keith Shields is CEO at Designli, a digital product studio that helps entrepreneurs and startup-minded enterprises launch transformative apps and web-apps.