Why your marketing isn’t creating MORE customers.

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Kyle Boerner

Cofounder, Chief Creative Marketer and Strategist

The solution is deep and simple, yet perceived as unattainable.

I have a secret to share with you that will help create MORE customers. 

Your brand is great!

Okay, that’s not the secret [I’ll share that later], but I know what you’re thinking right now. “How do you know that? You didn’t know I was going to be reading this… did you?” No, I didn’t know you were going to read my article, nor did I leverage Cambridge Analytica to figure that out [political satire], but I do know every brand needs to be reminded of its value, potential and difference daily.

Whether you think your brand has outstanding value or it has room for improvement, I know you can reach similar heights as Apple… I concede! You’re not Apple, I get that. Steve Faktor wrote a great article titled, “Shut Up, You’re Not Apple”[1], where he makes solid points about how not to approach such a vision. However, at the same time, what’s preventing you from building a similar, Steve Jobsian vision for your brand that you can reach in 5 to 10 years, most likely sooner?

Before I let you in on the secret sauce to MORE customers, allow me to share two short stories.

Grab a coffee and enjoy.

Steve Jobs and Joe Pulizzi. One needs no introduction, the other is a great author and founder of the Content Marketing Institute [CMI]. Both found themselves speaking to separate crowds of people, and both arrived at the same conclusion.

Joe Pulizzi wrote a fantastic article last year titled, “One Thing is Killing Content Marketing and Everyone is Ignoring it.[2]” In it, he shares a time back in 2016 when he was leading a workshop with several senior leaders from across multiple industries. It didn’t take long for Joe to make some frightening observations about their marketing strategies. One, everyone was creating similar content. Two, everyone wasn’t excited about marketing. Three, everyone was disappointed with their marketing. The senior leaders thought marketing was supposed to be easy, that the product should sell itself, and they were still scrambling to discover the… wait for it… secret sauce to Utopia.

Joe asked the senior leaders, “Is the content you are creating and distributing for your customers any different than anything else out there?”

Pin drop.

One morning in 1997, Steve Jobs, after returning to Apple from a 10+ year hiatus, was introducing his staff to the infamous “Think Different[3]” campaign. It wasn’t just an advertising campaign to him, it was Apple’s company mantra. Jobs was reflecting on Apple’s recent failures and losses to competitors like Microsoft, when he highlighted the two areas of improvement that were going to turn everything around—product innovation and marketing [no, this isn’t the secret, but we’re getting there]. Steve energized the company, simplified and improved product quality, and broke through the noisy world of marketing with clear, emotionally-charged messaging. Shortly thereafter, Jobs would drop one of his most popular quotes regarding Apple’s poor performance during his hiatus.

Steve Jobs: “The problem at Apple was that they stopped innovating… It wasn’t that Microsoft was so brilliant or clever in copying the Mac, it’s that the Mac was a sitting duck for 10 years. That’s Apple’s problem: Their differentiation evaporated.[4]”

There it is.

The secret.

The secret to creating MORE customers.

Differentiation.

The deepest, simplest and most value-adding strategy that is too often seen as unattainable, too often ignored, too often misunderstood.

 

Why is this important?

If you don’t identify what makes you different, if you don’t sustain what makes you different, and if you don’t create new points of difference, your differentiation will be forgotten or lost—or both—and the value will either evaporate or transfer to a competitor.

Think about that for a minute…

Steve Jobs knew Apple was already a valuable brand, but he invested in differentiation to revitalize the brand, making it one of the most profitable, loved, and envied brands of our time. 

Back to what I said earlier.

Your brand is great… but there’s a wealth of untapped potential in your brand, marketing and everything else that requires differentiation!

That’s why I’m writing to YOU today…

Yesterday I spoke with two startup companies who are beyond excited about their differentiated brands, so I thought I’d share the same insight that inspired their direction.

… because I have a sincere passion to excite you, inspire you, and to help you differentiate your brand, your marketing, your everything.

Welcome to the Differentiation of Everything!

Before I share anymore inspiration on why you should differentiate everything, check this out:

  • 80% of businesses believe they have differentiated offerings, but only 8% of customers agree — survey by Bain & Company (2005) [5]

This statistic, coupled with the fact that differentiation is misunderstood, is a great reminder as to just how low this strategy is hanging from your market’s fruit tree.

Here are three common questions I receive when I talk to executives such as yourself about differentiation. 

Yeah, but we sell widgets…

I get that. We’ve heard that before. Widgets, commodities, anything can be differentiated. There are many highly differentiated products today that were once perceived as undifferentiated [eg. water]. Differentiation is at the heart of competition, and there’s more to differentiate than just your product, and the more differentiated differences you create and promote [say that three times fast], the more they will be valued intellectually and recalled by your customers.

Yeah, but besides our brand and marketing, what else can we differentiate?

The list is long, but I’m going to step way out of the box and start with People & Process. Yes, you, your team and how you do things daily is a source of differentiation. When compared to your competitors, you and your team own a unique series of skills and form a cohesive intellect. One discipline that is just as, if not more misunderstood than differentiation is creativity. When combined with the aforementioned assets of your people and process, creativity can be the most powerful form of differentiation [though most thought leaders disagree with me, because…]. Creativity is often perceived as artsy and a source of pie-in-the-sky ideas. It’s actually a science invested in the integration and application of thinking, knowledge, imagination and evaluation. When done right, there is no better approach than creativity for innovation, rapidly growing and competitive markets, and strengthening what already makes your people and process unique.

Yeah, but where do we start?

We have a saying at White Buffalo Creative. The proof is in the prairie. You have to stand back from the herd before you can stand out. Most companies, including some of our clients, started their approach to differentiation from the middle of the herd. Copying and pasting what the competition was doing, following the latest Top 10 Trends, and any other upside-down approach that would deliver short-term excitement and results. Hey, we’ve all been there, but if you’re still reading this article, you’re more interested in the long-term, sustainable results that will get you to stand out from the herd. That is why you need to stand back and thoroughly vet your competition, customers and industry like never before, then take a top-down approach to differentiation starting with your brand, then your marketing, and from there everything else will fall into place.

I’m sure by now you are intrigued by the possibilities and quite possibly smiling.

We’re only scratching the surface today.

Now I have three questions for you:

  1. How well does your market respond to differentiated brands, and is there a BIG difference between how they respond to the difference in your brand and that of the most trusted brand in your industry?
  2. How well does your marketing increase customer response, and is there a BIG difference between what you ask of customers and what your competition asks of customers?
  3. If your marketing isn’t creating MORE customers, how is marketing perceived in your organization—as a cost, an investment, or the basic function of the business?

You don’t have to answer these questions now. We can review your answers and other unanswered questions at a later time.

One more thing before I go…

Remember when I referenced the solution as something ‘deep and simple’?

It’s referencing a quote from a humanitarian and dear friend of Fred Rogers [yes, of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood], Bo Lozoff: “Deep and simple is far more essential than shallow and complex, and that is the cause of all our personal problems.” [6]

Marketing should be synonymous with excitement. Somewhere along the way we transferred that level of excitement to the tools like social media and video marketing, and not to the strategy and thinking that fuels the tools. That’s a key source of marketing’s problems today. Let’s simplify and dive deeper into your marketing via differentiation. You’ll motivate and excite your organization and customers like never before!

Because, if you’re crazy enough to think that you can change the reputation of your brand and marketing via differentiation, you probably will… Steve Jobs did.

Thank you for your time today.

If you would like to discover the possibilities of differentiation, you can request a free consultation by visiting our Contact Us page.

Please follow me and White Buffalo Creative to stay in the know on everything differentiation.

Kyle Boerner

PS. Enjoy the referenced resources below, and look forward to our Differentiation Hub coming later this year!

#diffeverything

[1] “Shut Up, You’re Not Apple”, Steve Faktor

[2] “One Thing is Killing Content Marketing and Everyone is Ignoring it.” Joe Pulizzi

[3] “Think Different”, Steve Jobs.

[4] “Apple Confidential 2.0”, Owen Linzmayer

[5] “Closing the delivery gap: How to achieve true customer-led growth” James Allen, Frederick F. Reichheld, Barney Hamilton, Rob Markey

[6] “Deep and Simple”, Bo Lozoff