Differentiation is not an option. It is a survival issue.

Apple is different because of its design, its cultish culture.

Intel is different because of its ability to constantly increase microprocessor power at reduced prices.

Dell is different through its knowledge of the supply chain.

The Body Shop is different because of its ability to combine beauty with social activism.

Jet Blue is different with its low-cost, efficient air travel concept.

There are six areas to look into for creating differentiation:

1. Focus on a domain. Ask: What will be your domain?

2. Using the right tools; buying modern machinery.

3. Decide your methodology; decide the processes. Methodology is your special way of doing things.The power of methodology is in its ability to deliver predictable success.

4. Quality: Quality focused enterprises believe that you can deliver quality only when you begin to focus on the process rather than the end result. Process-focused enterprises are quality enterprises.

5. Innovation: the ability to continuously come up with ways & means which are new & different. Companies are focusing on the customer’s customer.

6. Branding: A “value promise”.

If you have a product difference, then you should be able to demonstrate that difference. This difference can take real forms (soluble aspirin as against non-soluble aspirin, for example) or imaginary forms (by advertising that suggests one perfume makes you more attractive to the opposite sex than another.) However claims for difference without proof are really just claims.

If you build a differentiated product, then you need to communicate this difference. Every aspect of your communications should reflect your difference. Your advertising, your brochure, your Web site, your sales presentations.You can’t over-communicate your difference. Also, your differentiating idea must be as simple & as visible as possible.

Top management has to make sure that a differentiating strategy is generated, communicated & maintained.

Robert Goizueta, the late CEO of Coca-Cola said ‘ in real estate it’s location, location, location. In business it’s differentiation, differentiation, differentiation.

Once the differentiation becomes the strategy, the employees ‘unlock their true potential’. For, they have answered the question ‘ What makes my company different?’ That answer gives them something to latch on to & run with. Without a powerful single compelling idea, all the motivation & people skills in the world aren’t going to help.

Real motivation starts with the weapon of a differentiating idea. Then you can challenge your troops to bring it to life (& make it flourish) in sales, product development, engineering etc.

Positioning is how you differentiate your product in the mind of your prospect. What makes the company strong is not the product or service. It’s the position it owns in the mind. The core idea behind the positioning should pass the “CEO test”. What would the CEO say when asked: “So what is this organisation really about?”

There is damage in growing beyond your original identity. If you start presenting yourself as something other than what you are known for, it begins to erode your special identity. Sacrificing growth to your differentiating idea is good. As,

1. Staying focussed on one kind of product is far superior to the everything-for-everyone approach.

2. Staying focussed on one kind of product attribute is superior to telling a multiple attribute story.

3. Staying focussed on one target segment in a category enables you to become the preferred product in the segment.