Differentiation in Business: Promotion Tips to Prevent Generic Marketing

By MARK RIFFEY, for the Flathead Beacon.

One of the things you have to be careful about is making your business too generic.

The conversation…

Them: Could I get you to comment on a booth graphic for my company? We are pretty simple here and need a banner for a trade show booth. Wondering if the fonts are ‘old’.

Them: (Sends booth graphic, which says the company name, what they do and “Manufactured in Montana USA”)

Me: The “Manufactured in Montana USA” line should stay no matter what else you do. It’s fascinating how much “Manufactured in Montana USA” improves response vs. “Made in Montana”.

Lesson: Test *everything*.

Me: This banner tells what you do but it doesn’t say why I should talk to you instead of everyone else who does what you do. What separates you from the others who do what you do?

Them: We have a large variety of in-stock materials, very fast turnaround on materials and parts, specialize in small run orders.

Me: Probably too much to put on a banner. Is small run unusual in your business?

Them: It is in our particular niche. It separates us from a couple of bigger competitors. They refer to us when someone wants a small quantity.

Them: It’s also an attraction for the government contracted items as they will only need 32 of something so a lot of competitors won’t take the work.

Lesson: Know what makes you special.

Me: Think about these:

“We specialize in small run orders” vs “We specialize in small run orders. We’ll make 32 of them, if that’s what you need (Specific vs. generic).”

“Very fast turnaround” vs “Three day turnaround” (“Very fast” has many meanings. What does it mean to you?)

“We stock 1000 square feet of 214 different materials so we can get your order out quickly without material delivery delays” vs “large variety of in-stock materials”.

Me: Being specific (such as “three day”) provokes them to ask someone else exactly what their turnaround is (for example), without you saying a word about your competitor.

Them: We’d be on the offensive for once! This sales stuff is not in our DNA (it was the grandfather’s gift, no one since then).

Me: Is he the business’ namesake? If so, I’d be tempted to incorporate a good head shot photo of him (in context of the business) into your signage but that’ll greatly change the banner price if the timing and cost make sense.

Them: Interesting .. to make it more personal?

Me: Exactly.

Me: I do have another suggestion for a change for the banner. If you only want to buy it once… “Since 1961”

Me: If you want to buy the banner more than once, this is the year to say “Fifty years…” or “Our 50th year” etc.

Lesson: State your strengths in specifics, no matter how obvious.

Me: Since its a family affair, you may want to work in “Three generations” and a progression of pics of you, dad, grandpa.

Them: That’s a really great idea. Helps with that story you want people to get into.

Me: Exactly. The question everyone enjoys answering: “So, how’d you get into this business?”

Lesson: Business is Personal.

Me: Do you guys have booth giveaways?

Them: Notepads was the plan. We are working up materials and sample parts to display on our table. Stuff to show off our capabilities.

Me: How do notepads provoke people to think about your product? Alternative: What would it cost to make a four inch diameter rounds of a mildly heat resistant and hopefully liquid resistant material you use in production?

Them: I think we could make that happen.

Me: I’m thinking coasters with your company/logo/URL/phone # embossed on them. Put your work in front of them all day, every day. A notepad will get left on a plane or in a hotel room. These won’t be.

Them: We would have to figure out a way to put the printing on there but it’s a great idea.

Me: I figured you might have a means of embossing, but I wasn’t sure.

Them: We are a crafty bunch so now that you’ve given me the idea…

Them: I really appreciate the help. This is a new world to me.

Lesson: Use congruent tools to get them thinking and talking about you. Differentiation in business is key to marketing success.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s sitecontact him on Twitter, or email him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.