Five Tips for Differentiating Your Business from Competitors

Every market today is a busy, crowded, competitive market. In the industrial sector, many companies offer similar products, components and services. The quest to stand out from the crowd and differentiate from your competitors is a difficult challenge, but once overcome will help you gain a stronger, more recognizable position in the market.

Here are five tips to help you create differentiation, and distance, from your competitors:

Differentiating your company from competitors is not easy but will help your position in the marketplace.
Differentiating your company from competitors is not easy but will help your position in the marketplace.

1. Know your enemy

This saying, taken from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, may be on the dramatic side, but for industrial companies it means that in order to differentiate from your competitors you must first study and know them. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How do they position their company and offerings? What promises do they make in their marketing? How are they perceived in the industry?
Getting answers to these questions allows you to focus on how you are different and what you do better than your competitors. You need to find those key attributes that set you apart.

2. Stick to your mission statement and core values

The relationship between companies and mission statements can take one of three forms: 1) the company doesn’t believe in mission statements, perhaps thinking they’re a waste of time; 2) the company takes the time to craft a mission statement but then basically ignores it; or 3) the company takes its mission statement seriously, putting energy and resources into understanding the organization’s purpose and core values, what it hopes to achieve, and how to achieve it.

Be that third company. A solid mission statement can help focus your company, provide a framework for evaluating whether opportunities fit your business model and strategy, establish your brand, and give your employees core values to embrace.

A mission statement should be short, simple and specific. Avoid industry buzzwords. Avoid saying what any other company might say, and instead focus on what’s unique and special about your company. If you don’t already have a mission statement and need inspiration, visit the websites of the companies you admire most (industrial, b-to-b, consumer or otherwise) and check out how they have positioned their businesses.

3. Be innovative

A sure way to separate your company from your competitors is to do something innovative. It may be on the product side—being first to market with a new technology or product is a huge differentiator. But there are other ways to be innovative. You could make a name for your company by implementing innovative customer service, warranty or replacement policies that are unique in your industry. You can open a “virtual university” to share technical expertise with the customers, the market or even engineering students. You can be the company that sponsors an online discussion forum for engineers.

4. Tell a compelling story

Every company has a unique and compelling story to tell. What’s yours? Started by a couple of engineers in a garage? Successful merger of two unlikely marriage partners? Built from the ground up by a visionary who identified an unmet customer need? More and more these days, customers are digging deeper into a company’s history before choosing to do business with it. They’re looking for a company with a strong pedigree and satisfied customers. A company they can trust. A company that has that extra something special. Your company does have that extra something that your competitors don’t. Find out what it is. Tell your story. Publish it on your website. Include it in communications.

5. Reinforce though marketing

You know what makes your company unique and different from your competitors. Now you need to repeat and reinforce that message in your marketing efforts. Extract those couple of words or compelling messages and repeat them through social media, content marketing, e-newsletters, banner ads, boilerplates, webinars, and other forms of marketing. Do this often enough, do it right, and back it up, and you will become known as the company that offers the highest quality products, the fastest delivery of custom orders, or best customer support. Or the company with the greatest technical expertise, the most creative problem solvers, the most experienced consultants . . . or whatever differentiates you from competitors and secures your unique position in the market.

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Industrial Marketing and Sales Marketing Strategy

How Industrial Marketing Professionals Use Market Research

Half of industrial marketers now use primary market research to plan their marketing strategy, according to the results of IHS Engineering360 Media Solutions’ latest research report How Industrial Marketers Use Market Research.

Market research is rated as above average in importance by industrial marketers, yet 63 percent spend less than 10 percent of their annual budget on it, and 54 percent say that budget is a primary barrier to using market research. So there is some disconnect on the part of marketers between perceived value and willingness to invest in market research.

market research
Half of industrial marketers now use primary market research to plan their marketing strategy.

Types of research industrial marketers rely on

Primary and Secondary

There are two types of market research: primary and secondary. Half of industrial marketers use primary research, which is new and original research. Those that rely on primary research either conduct it themselves (64 percent), have other internal people do it (63 percent) or hire an outside vendor (46 percent).

Forty-eight percent of industrial marketers use secondary research, which makes use of information previously researched for other purposes and is publicly available. The most popular secondary research sources are Internet search, used by 85 percent, followed by industry analyst reports (78 percent) and books, periodicals and magazines (62 percent). The industry analyst reports most often used come from Forrester, Frost & Sullivan and IHS.

Qualitative and Quantitative

Market research can be qualitative or quantitative in nature. Qualitative research tends to provide information that has depth and subjectivity. Quantitative research is focused on being statistically relevant. Qualitative tactics include one-on-one interviews, phone interviews, usability surveys and focus groups. Quantitative tactics are typically surveys conducted online (the most popular tactic) or by phone or direct mail.

What industrial marketers want to gain from research

For those industrial marketers that conduct primary research, their goals are to gain knowledge about the marketplace/target audience (76 percent), develop competitive analysis (70 percent), understand existing customers (68 percent) and identify potential customers (65 percent). Entering a new market is the top reason why industrial marketers will invest in research.

Five Tips for Creating a Survey

1. Only ask useful questions.

Every question in your survey should have a purpose. The answer to any question should provide data you can use to help make better marketing or business decisions. If it won’t, strike it.

2. Use rating scales in a balanced and consistent manner.

On questions with rating scales, the lowest (or most negative) point should be the worst possible situation and the highest (or most positive) should be the best possible. The labels in between should be evenly spread. For example, “strongly disagree–disagree–neutral–agree–strongly agree” scale is a popular, balanced scale. Your scale direction (negative to positive or vice versa) should always go in the same direction. If “1” is the worst and “5” is the best, keep that rating model consistent throughout.

3. Avoid leading or loaded questions.

These types of questions will give you unreliable data. For example: “Expert reviewers have rated our oscillating water pumps the highest in the industry. Do you agree?” Most respondents will tend to strongly agree or agree with the statement because experts say so. A better way to phrase that question is: “How would you rate our oscillating water pumps?” and provide a rating scale for survey takers to offer their responses.

4. Use a funnel approach.

Ask broad questions first to introduce a topic, followed by more specific or complex questions. This helps your respondents loosen up before getting to the in-depth questions. End with your demographic questions, which are easy to answer.

5. Keep the survey short and simple.

The longer and more complicated your survey, the fewer number of respondents will complete it and some respondents may begin to answer questions without thinking them through. Having clear goals for your survey and making sure each question is relevant and has a purpose will help guide your structure and length. Market research experts agree that 15 minutes is the upper limit of what you can ask for your respondent’s time.

For additional tips on creating and designing market research surveys, and to access all survey results in chart form, download your complimentary copy of the How Industrial Marketers Use Market Research.

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What have you found successful with your market research efforts? What advice would you give to your peers in industrial marketing? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Image courtesy of jannoon028 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.

Market Research