There is a train of thinking that marketing is all about generating awareness of an organisation’s service offering – we sometimes hear it said ‘We just need to get our message out’.

It’s also fair to say that many people think of marketing as another word for sales. However, while marketing supports sales, it really performs a very different function.

When discussing our performance indicators with clients, we often have to clarify a key point – marketing can drive leads, but it can’t be responsible for converting these leads into sales. Our job is to develop strategic marketing activity that results in quality leads, such as phone calls, web enquiries and referrals. Our job does not extend to converting these into sales. That’s our clients’ job!

Marketing’s role is really about identifying and matching up service offerings with customer needs and wants. It’s about your product (or service), your pricing, your placement, as well as your positioning.

The topic we’re interested in talking about in this post is point of difference, which relates to positioning.

When it comes to creating a business marketing strategy, why does point of difference matter so much? For effective strategic marketing to occur, organisations should take a step back to ensure:

  1. what they say is compelling to their target audience (i.e. whether the messaging is attractive), and that
  2. they communicate a sustainable point of difference from their competitive set.

Competition is a concept all commercially run organisations have to deal with. It’s really important to understand who your competitors are – directly or indirectly (i.e. who might your audience seek out as an alternative if they do not use a similar service provider).

We find clients entering the world of consumer directed care lack competitor knowledge and the ability to easily identify their competitors. Keep in mind too that competitors may also be partners or potential partners. It’s a mistake to invest money in promotional activity before you’ve worked out a really strong case as to why your customers should purchase your services above all others.

So what do we mean by a sustainable point of difference? In today’s competitive world where there is a vast amount of marketing clutter, it’s really important to create a message that cuts through.

While it’s a little difficult to find modern statistics on clutter, did you know that the average Australian consumes: Media consumption

  • Three hours of TV a day?
  • Two hours of commercial radio?
  • Two hours of internet surfing?
  • 30 minutes of reading newspapers?
  • 20 minutes of reading magazines?

In a world overcrowded with services, products and media, there is increased competition for eyeballs and ears. That’s quite something, which is why your organisation needs to angle its messages to its target market in such a way that it stands out and communicates how its offering is different from others, as well as compelling.

This point of difference helps organisations demonstrate the thing they provide that no one else does. It helps develop a clear and strong reasoning about why customers should seek out your services and it frames your positioning (how your organisation’s value and benefits are perceived relative to competitors).

A clear point of difference underpins your marketing efforts by providing clarity and consistency about why your potential customers need you above all others. A sustainable point of difference should also be defendable and relevant for an ongoing period. In order to define it, seek to understand what your competitors are offering and how you stand apart. Once defined, you need to assert it again and again and again.

We often work with clients to help them uncover what sets them apart. It’s great involving staff in the discussions as part of a strategic marketing planning exercise. We enjoy overseeing a kind of awakening around what distinguishes the organisation.

However, it’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer. Often clients say ‘our people’, which is a wonderful tribute. However this answer is too generic; it’s not sufficiently detailed. The answer to this fundamental question always requires further analysis and unpacking. We challenge these answers and aim to bring to the surface real insights, which are defendable for the longer term and which translate into effective communications and generate calls to action – resulting in increased sales or engagement.

How do we measure this? By analysing Google website visits, corresponding new business calls and referrals.

So, as a strategic marketing communications agency what’s our point of difference? Well we reckon we’ve got a wealth of knowledge, which is based on many years of working within the marketing, communications and PR sector. We have strategic expertise and health industry knowledge combined with practical knowledge of how to develop and deliver strategic marketing for results. We develop marketing strategy and deliver plans. The two (strategy and communications execution) go hand in hand for effective results. You can’t have one without the other. Hence our tagline – Strategic insights into growth.

Summary

The sad truth is organisations tend to see marketing strategy development as either not important, or far too big of a task. Often, they promote themselves without first understanding why they’re different in the eyes of their consumer. But once you’ve done the important groundwork of finding and communicating your point of difference, you’ll find that it’s easier to promote yourself and attract the right customers.

So, how is your organisation different for your target audience? We’d love to hear from you.

Photograph by Providence Doucet (www.unsplash.com).