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14 Ways To Make The Sale Instead Of Giving It To The Competition Tip 13: Define Your “Je Ne Sais Quoi”

By November 18, 2011July 2nd, 2014Marketing Insights & Strategy
14 Ways To Make The Sale Instead Of Giving It To The Competition Tip 13: Define Your "Je Ne Sais Quoi"

Lucky number 13! We’re winding up this series at long last, but that doesn’t make this tip any less important. In fact, these last two tips are two of the most important, most likely to give you that boost you need to rise above the crowd.

Ready to make a lasting impression, turn prospects into customers and competitors into gawkers just wondering how you did it?

Tip #13: Define Your “Je Ne Sais Quoi”

For the less French-inclined, that literally means your “I don’t know what”. Your something-or-other, your x-factor, the thing that’s uniquely special to you and your business. In overused marketing-speak this is sometimes broadly referred to as “defining your positioning statement” or “differentiating yourself from the competition”.

But I’m talking about something more relevant and meaningful than a list of benefits, and I don’t know what that is, and maybe you don’t either, but it’s time for you to put a finger on it.

You Are Not A Unique Snowflake

Very few of us are that different from our competition. That’s why we have competition. If we were so unique and special, we’d be in a class unto ourselves and the sole provider of some unique and special service. As it stands, there are probably a lot of qualified people who do the same things that you do.

But they are not you. And your job is to figure out what it is that makes you not them.

Confused yet? If you want to win business you’ve got to be very clear with yourself and with your customers about why you’re worth doing business with. You’ve got to figure out why, in a long line of people who want to take your customer’s money, you’re the one they should give it to.

(You get a bonus point if you can name the movie that reassures us of our lack of unique snowflakeness.)

Toss The Marketing Tripe

The problem with setting out to establish some sort of “benefit statement” is that we follow the cliché right to its obvious end and come up with the standard drivel that we’ve all seen and ignored so many times in our own lives.

Are you committed to providing excellent customer service? So what? I doubt you’ll find a single company that tells its customers, “Hey, we’re going to ignore you.”

Do you always provide the highest quality work and aim to meet or exceed customer expectations? Ho-hum. Bet you won’t get anyone to admit to aiming for mediocrity, either.

Have you been in business forever and have worlds of experience? Just starting out and have the open-mindedness and willingness to take risks that established companies don’t? Large company with many resources at your disposal? Small company with the advantage of flexibility and mobility?

Does it say, anywhere in your marketing copy, that you leverage anything or create synergies anywhere?

If you want to stand out you need to get rid of everything that makes you fit in with the generic, worn, standard “benefits” touted by every company ever created.

It’s Not As Easy… But Doesn’t Have To Be As Hard As You Think

So if you’re not a unique snowflake and you can’t claim customer service or high quality, how do you define your business? It starts with defining your brand. You can do this long before the first customer ever walks through your door, or you can evolve it slowly as you learn and grow in your business. But to take on the competition, you must do it.

Take a common example. In the world of soft drinks, Coke and Pepsi have long been in competition.  Both drinks are some combination of sweeteners, color and carbonation. In a blindfolded taste test, you might prefer one to the other, but in a restaurant, you probably often hear yourself saying, “I’ll have a Coke or Pepsi, whichever you have.” So how does sweet carbonated soft drink A define itself against sweet carbonated soft drink B?

Hint: it’s not the customer service. It’s not exceeding expectations or leveraging synergies. It’s not even the quality.

It’s the brand. Coke is about being part of your family, warm fuzzies and sharing a smile. Pepsi is about the new generation and being cool and high-energy. Carbonation and sweeteners don’t stand a chance against warm-fuzzy or high-energy.

Dare I say, the actual flavor is secondary to the sense of identity one derives from drinking a particular beverage.

You don’t need to be Coke or Pepsi to have a brand that people can identify with. Some companies align themselves with non-profits or charitable causes and that creates an emotional bond with customers. Some companies build a culture around personality traits that customers can identify with.

Some companies simply show customers a better version of what their lives could be – if only they used certain products and services!

The key is to figure out what you want your customers to identify with and build on that. Think about your personality, your style, your values, your goals, and the type of customers that you want. Remember, your job is not to be all things to all people.

It’s to appeal to – and convert – the right people. If your brand is edgy and contemporary, don’t worry yourself gray about losing the conservative audience. That isn’t your customer base.

Sometimes It Comes Down To A Cannoli

True story: I once closed a business deal after a lengthy conversation with a prospect about Sunday dinner and a shared love of cannolis. The conversation started out business-y enough. Requirements, budget, process.  But as it digressed, my personal connection with this particular prospect spoke louder than the eight carefully crafted steps I’d laid out to demonstrate how fabulously we would handle her project. And while cannolis aren’t necessarily part of my company’s brand, the personal connection is.

Had I not shared memories of Sunday roast chicken, we would never have had that particular conversation and there’s no telling whether my prospect would have felt comfortable or connected enough to do business with me. She might have found an equally qualified but more food-loving company to hire.

The point is that you, your personality, your brand, your values and the way you reflect those in your business dealings will give you the je ne sais quoi that puts you ahead of the competition.

Will it put you ahead of the competition every time? No, because maybe you will meet a prospect who once had an allergic reaction to cannolis and now thinks of her horrid case of hives every time you walk in the room. But I guarantee that without the thing that makes you uniquely you, you’ll blend into obscurity every time. What is it about you? I don’t know. But it’s time for you to figure it out!

Can you define in a few words or sentences what makes you and your business distinct?

Read More In The “Make The Sale” Series