We have just completed a successful Industrial Manufacturers Channel Partner Sales Survey for 20 of our Industrial Channel Research (ICR) members.
I’ve spent the last few days evaluating feedback we received from sales people of their channel partner distributors. As expected, our members rated well in some areas and have improvement opportunities in others which is good… ICR is all about continuous improvement.
One topic we added in the survey for the first time was differentiation. We asked respondents to evaluate their suppliers on this statement: “This brand offers something unique and different I can’t get from other manufacturers”. Our learning was that almost every ICR member rated low on this statement.
Differentiation in the industrial space is really hard. I get it. A lot of industrial problems have been solved already and it’s difficult to make anything more than incremental improvements. The problem is that it matters!
It matters because it differentiates you from the competition. It gives you something to say that no one else can and you don’t sound like a “me-too” company that winds up competing on price alone. It matters because customers will find you instead of you having to find them. It matters because customers can overlook some of your organization’s flaws because you have something special.
It’s not critical to be highly differentiated for every product or service you offer; but having a few unique, exciting solutions will do wonders for your brand. Think of the Corvette for Chevrolet or the Playstation for Sony. Both give their brands a sense of excitement and innovation that extends to non-differentiated portions of their product lines.
So, start an innovation process. Make it part of your organization’s product / service management culture. Start asking questions like “What problems are our customers facing for which none of our competitors have good solutions and how are we uniquely positioned to solve them?” If you don’t know how, read a book or hire a consultant. But, one way or another, find a way to let the marketplace know there’s something special about your company. It will be hard, but everything worthwhile is.
Bart Schwartz is President of Industrial Channel Research, a company focused on helping industrial manufacturers understand customer needs and perceptions. He can be reached at email@example.com.