Dare to be different. Please.

Posted by Heather Villa, CMA, MBA, MSM on March 22, 2010 in: Branding, Business - Plain & Simple


I had an insurance brokerage company ask if I could recommend some ways to help them improve their web presence and market themselves more efficiently. We talked back and forth about what services they offered. I ended up choosing not to take them on as clients. The reason I felt that I wasn’t the right fit for them was simple:

When I asked them about what services they offered, they rattled off the standard services – home insurance, life insurance, auto insurance, etc. So I asked them what made them different from other brokers, as their answer to this question would help me to craft a perfect social media strategy for them.

They said “We give great customer service.”

“Okay,” I said, “How?”

They responded that their customer service is really good. Everyone is friendly. Their staff are helpful.

I continued to press them for specifics. Sadly, there weren’t any. So I asked them how it was different from other brokerages – after all, the broker where I get my insurance is friendly and helpful. They said it didn’t sound like there were any differences.

Case closed. We talked a bit about how they might consider being different but it became clear that they felt their differentiating factor was to be the same as everyone else.

I wished them well. I know they will continue to face the same customer acquisition struggles in the future, not because they don’t have good products or services but because they don’t seem to be any different than any other brokerage around.

I’m not picking on them exclusively. I’ve only mentioned them because we just had the conversation, but they are not alone. This is a problem in a number of industries including the real estate industry, the financial services industry, and more.

Readers, if you run a business and your differentiator isn’t that different, you may not fail in your business but you will struggle to get clients and keep them, and your clients will end up comparing you with your competitors based on the prices you charge.

Do this exercise: Look at your business and list what you think are the qualities that make you different. Then do the same exercise as if you were your competitor. What would they say makes them different? If you pick the same thing (i.e., “customer service”) it’s a red flag that there could be a differentiation issue. (Warning: some entrepreneurs might say “but our service IS better”, and that might be true, but I would say it probably isn’t as better than you think).

Being different is a fun, easy, and competition-busting way to enjoy way more success.

Dare to be different.

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