How to Message Meaningful Differentiators

By Morgan Norris

You must know and define your brand if you expect others to follow it. For your brand message to stand out, it has to be distinct, defining you as different than your competitors. 

In our brand positioning and messaging process, we dive deep into who your customers are, where they’re located, why they’re suffering, what you do to meet their needs, how you deliver your solution, and how you’re different than everything else out there.

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When defining that last piece – differentiation, engineering and technical clients often want to run to pragmatic, inconsequential differentiators that feel safe and all encompassing, and stop there. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • “We deploy hundreds of systems every year”
  • “We are experts in aerospace”
  • “We have worked with embedded technology for two decades”

And for your more progressive/startup-feel companies:

  • “We’re fun to work with”
  • “We work smarter, not harder”

These differentiators have something in common: they’re not different at all. In fact, they could probably be claimed by dozens of your competitors, if not hundreds of other companies.

So how do you message differentiators? How do you put pen to paper and identify aspects of your company that actually matter? Here are a few tips: 

Your differentiators must cost you something.

Your differentiators make your company stand out because they actually cause you to draw a line in the stand and hold firm to some value. Doint this allows you to actively call out the benefits of your named differentiators. But, because decisions are never purely win-win, there are always consequences. Companies that define their brands well are unafraid to address the consequences of their differentiators.

This is where a differentiator like “We deploy hundreds of systems every year” falls flat. It’s simply a fact of your business, but it’s not a differentiator – it doesn’t set your company apart from the rest and show how you’re uniquely positioned to help a customer.

Here’s a personal example: At TREW, we focus specifically on marketing to engineers. It’s our niche, and in turn, we feel this focus helps us do better work for clients and is a differentiator for us. However, this value comes at a high cost.

If you’re a consumer clothing brand in need of marketing planning and marketing automation, we’ll likely turn down your business. We’re willing to forgo the immediate revenue in order to hold tightly to our differentiator – specializing in marketing to engineers and scientists. 

Your differentiators must benefit your customers.

You can have great company values, but for them to actually mean something for your customers, they must impact your customers or prospects in a positive way.

“We work smarter, not harder” doesn’t pass this litmus test. As a customer, I likely don’t care how you’re working back at HQ. I want my problem solved, and I want it solved well, but you haven’t showed me how you work smarter and how it benefits me as a customer.

At TREW, our focus on engineers and scientists sure makes our jobs easier (we know what business to decline and what to pursue), but it also allows us to deliver work at a higher level of quality than our competitors. With a focus on engineers and scientists, we hone in on novel research, partner with other companies with the same focus, and offer specific resources that greatly benefit out customers and prospects. Those prospects can see that we’re 100% dedicated to their specific cause, and it sets the TREW brand apart.

Your differentiators must be communicated clearly.

“We are experts in aerospace” may actually be a differentiator for you, but you’ll need some messaging to show how and why a prospect should trust you as an expert. If I need an aerospace expert and the messages I’m hearing from you are that you’re an aerospace expert, you’re an agriculture expert, you’re an automotive expert, and you’re an oil & gas expert – I’m not sure that you’re really dedicated to my problem. However, if you’re an aerospace expert and you support that with specific applications you’ve completed, content for me about current trends in aerospace, and relevant partners in the industry, I can quickly and easily see you’re entrenched and invested in my problem.

0217_differentiators2.pngAt TREW, we frame differentiators as pillars: clear, overarching statements, and then support them with detail. For example, a specific focus on marketing to engineers and scientists could be a differentiation pillar, supported by the following bullets:

  • We conduct extensive yearly research to further understand the engineers’ buying process
  • We build partnerships with trade media including Elektor Magazine and CFE Media
  • We publish content dedicated to helping companies specifically market to engineers and scientists

This well-developed differentiation pillar and its supporting bullets help us to clearly communicate a differentiator that is so valuable it costs us something, and so impactful to our customers that it can influence a purchase decision.

Do you need help defining your brand in a meaningful way? Learn more about our brand messaging and positioning services.


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