That was the theme for the seminar I attended this week in Des Moines with some of my colleagues. We had the opportunity to listen to Jack Trout, president of Trout & Partners Ltd. (one of the most prestigious marketing firms in the USA), and author of the book “Differentiate or Die”. The general synopsis of what he talks about is that your brand and/or your product has to have a key feature that stands out and makes it different enough to get the customer to buy yours over the competition – and it has to be beyond price and quality. Consumers expect quality, and your competitors can slash prices just as fast as you. So what then, makes you different? How about being first to the marketplace with something.
Well that made my light bulb flicker a bit, as we have used that differentiation before with several of our product lines. Did you know that we were the FIRST North American manufacturer to design and build a hooklift system? That’s where Stellar got its start, back in 1990. We were also first to bring the concept of a hexagonal boom design into the mechanic’s crane market. And most recently, we were the first mechanic’s crane manufacturer to offer real time load information right at the fingertips of the operator on an LED screen on the remote control.
So as far as differentiating, I think we’re doing okay. But is it enough? For today, maybe – but we must remember that we can’t sit back on our laurels and just ride the wave. We must keep in mind that business is different these days. The Internet has brought a whole new level to this game allowing consumers to do a ton of research at all hours of the day. And we must keep in mind that things change at a rapid pace. So, we must continue to keep at the forefront of our current differentiations that set us apart and above the competition, continue to improve them so we can stay ahead of the game, AND get our products out in front of the markets as quickly as possible to retain and gain new customers. We have to continue to keep our light bulbs burning bright with ideas and innovation, and embrace the changes that come with new products, new marketing methods, new technologies and new ways to do business. Change is inevitable, uncomfortable and awkward, but it’s a journey that we must embrace and manage and THIS is what will allow us to continue to differentiate and be the first choice.
So let us all go forth and be willing to change, so we can continue to differentiate… or we will die. And I don’t know about you, but I’m still too young for that.