be different

Last week I went to the new Second Cup in Saint John. I paid $3.95 and here’s what I received in return:

  • A chance to catch up with a friend in an environment that buzzed, but wasn’t noisy
  • Comfortable chairs to sit, relax and chat
  • A trendy space that looked great and felt good to be in
  • A yummy chai tea latte, served in a mug

Some people would say $3.95 is too much to spend on a cup of tea, but in my opinion it was a bargain – for $3.95 I had a whole experience.

That’s what sets coffee shops like Second Cup and Starbucks apart – they don’t try to compete on price, they created an experience that caters to a demographic that appreciates it…and people go back, again and again.

The problem many companies find themselves in is that they sell what appears to be the same product or service as everyone else.  With nothing to differentiate by, the consumer falls back on price…”well if I can get the same widget over there for $50 less, why buy it here?”

Think about your own company – and be honest with yourself, what differentiates the experience you sell, from the experience your competitors sell?

Ask yourself questions like:

  • What makes us different from our competitors? Are they things our ideal customers care about?
  • Do our customers know what makes us different?
  • What could we add, or take away, from our experience to make it more desireable?
  • What value can we add that would be worth paying extra for?
  • What extra can we include that goes hand-in-hand with the products/services we offer?

Seth Godin delves into this line of thinking in his book “Free Prize Inside“. He encourages companies to focus on soft innovations they can create to make their product or organization worth talking about.

Like the little toys that used to come in a cereal box, what Free Prize can you include to create an experience that’s head and shoulders above the rest?

Some examples to inspire you…

  • The Service Department that cleans and vacuums your car before giving it back to you
  • The barber that gives you a free beer with your hair cut
  • The babysitter that cleans the kitchen after the kids go to bed
  • The cleaning company that uses only environmentally friendly products
  • The restaurant with exceptionally good service (always)

Photo Credit: Stand out and be different! by Sebastien Wiertz