Understanding Your Point of Difference - and Capitalizing on It with Branding

"To effectively position yourself in competitive markets, your business must clearly establish its points of parity and points of difference."

By: William Scott, Brand Strategist
Linkedin: WilliamUnsung

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In competitive markets, standing out from the crowd is essential to your business. The question is, with so many similar offerings, how do you make your brand distinctive? You may try to differentiate yourself on price alone, but this is a risky move. It lowers your margins, making it harder to earn substantial profits and it makes you vulnerable to being undercut by competitors and losing your only (easily copied) advantage.
 
To effectively position yourself in competitive markets, your business must clearly establish its points of parity and points of difference. Your brand must ensure that there is a balance between the two and that your end positioning has truly capitalized on each.
 
In this guide, you’ll learn the role of points of parity and points of difference and how to use your company’s branding to differentiate yourself in a competitive environment.

Points Of Parity

Points of parity are the aspects of your product offering that are similar to the offerings of your competitors. They essentially serve as industry standards that allow a business to establish itself as legitimate in its field.
 
Points of parity act as a bare minimum for competitive business. If you want to remain competitive, your company must meet all points of parity.

Points Of Difference

Points of difference are the aspects of your business that are distinct from the offerings of your competitors. These are the elements that are truly unique to your business and that give you an edge over the competition.
 
Points of difference are what you want to highlight in your messaging and should be at the forefront of all your marketing efforts.

Balancing Points of Difference and Points of Parity

Companies normally decide the positioning of their product offering when entering a new market for the first time or launching a new product into a current target market. In both cases, the product will need to win market share from established competitors.

For this to happen, existing customers in the marketplace must change their purchasing behavior. This means that customers who currently buy a competitive product need to trial the new offering and new customers need to be activated to buy from the product category for the first time.

To be able to shift established purchase behavior, brands need to meet both the fundamental need of the product while also bringing something new into the marketplace. This means that the positioning of new entrants needs to have a balance of both points of parity and points of difference.

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How to Find Your Points of Difference

How do you find your points of difference when you have the same (or very similar) offering as others?
 
To establish what sets you apart, you need to leverage your unique selling proposition and
brand identity. This will allow you to craft a message that goes beyond the features of your product.
 
Here are some ways you can create a unique identity that differentiates your company in the marketplace:
number one

Experience and Expertise

Take a close look at the skills and abilities of members in your organization and see what you have that competitors do not. Here are some points to consider:
  • Have you been in business longer?
  • Do you have more industry experience?
  • Do you specialize in any areas that others don’t?
  • Do you have any specific qualifications that are hard to attain or are very exclusive?
  • Have you won an award?
  • Are you a member of any exclusive groups or associations?
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number two

Exceptional Quality

Do you offer products or services that are truly of higher quality than the competition? In which ways? If your offering is of a higher standard you can focus on building a reputation as a premium brand. Here are some points to consider when building a reputation as a high-quality provider:
  • Do your products last longer or work faster?
  • Do you use stronger, more durable, or safer materials?
  • Are your products more environmentally friendly or energy efficient?
  • Do you as a business have a better safety record?
  • Do you have quantifiable results that can be proven through testimonials or case studies?
  • Is your client satisfaction rate higher than your competitors?
number three

More Personalized Service

People want to feel like they're doing business with a person, not a company. Many customers will pay more for products when they feel a personal connection with a brand.
Look to see if you offer a more personalized experience than your competitors. Consider the following points:
 
  • Are you easier to get in touch with?
  • Do you spend more quality time getting to know clients to be able to help them better?
  • Do you ship products or deliver services quicker?
  • Do you have a set time in which you answer inquiries?
number four

Better Processes

Are there any key differences in the way you develop, source, produce, or deliver your products or services compared to your competitors?
 
This is another opportunity to position your brand as a premium provider and create a higher perceived value of your offering. Ask yourself the following when evaluating if your processes set your brand apart:
 
  • Do you take extra steps to ensure higher quality products or services?
  • Do you offer a guarantee that is more comprehensive or longer lasting than your
  • competitors?
  • Is your project briefing more detailed to ensure better fitting products or services?
  • Do you have better client follow up to ensure all objectives were achieved?
number five

Well-Known Clients

Do any well known brands or individuals use your products or services? Using the status of your clients to differentiate your business can be a great way to build credibility and generate publicity. You will not only appeal to their following and supporters, people will naturally assume you are a reputable brand if high-profile people or businesses use and endorse your products or services.
 
Ask your well-known clients to provide you a testimonial about how they have benefited from your products or services. Also, see if you can use their name and logo in promotional material and on your website. This will provide a substantial boost to your brand reputation. In the age of influencer marketing, this angle is more accessible than  ever before, and provides endless opportunities for segmentation and niche market research in ways that were previously too cumbersome or inaccessible.
number six

A Wider Range of Products or Services

Do you offer a more diverse range of products and services than your competitors? Customers love to build loyalty with brands and are more likely to buy a wide range of products from a business that they trust. Consider the following points when evaluating your brands ability to build a loyal following through its diverse product offering:
  • Do you offer a one-stop-shop of services?
  • Do you include “how-to” guides or webinars on how to get the most from your products
  • or services?
  • Do you have better or more diverse add-ons?
  • Do you have a wider range of colors, shapes, styles, or other variations?

Market Your Point of Difference

Tagline

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Logo

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Your Company Name

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Business Cards

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Print Brochures

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Website's Landing Page

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Social Media Profiles

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Website Bio

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