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What is Differentiation?


Differentiation is the method by which you showcase an the advantages to a particular market or demographic of your organization’s offerings over those of competing products or services.  You can differentiate offerings externally (against competitor’s products) or internally (against your own products).

A key component to successfully marketing a product or service is illustrating why your target demographic should select your offering over others in the marketplace. There is a saying that illustrates this concept when training sales people – customers do not buy features, they buy benefits.  No matter what product or service you are offering on your website, you must show the benefit to customers in order to earn their business.

For example, the 2019 Ford F150 can two up to 13,200 pounds. To tow up to 30,000 pounds you must upgrade to the F250. These are important statistics if you are selling a truck to someone who knows they will be towing something of a specific weight often.
However, most people who buy consumer pickup trucks are not planning on regularly towing things of fixed weight.

An example of differentiation might be, the 2019 Ford F-150 tows larger travel trailers than Dodge or RAM for when your plans unexpectedly change (picture of new baby featured).  Growing families should consider the F150 over external competitors because when you add another person you need another bed, which means a larger travel trailer.

From an internal perspective, if you make the jump from a travel trailer to a 5th wheel, you add a LOT of weight.  Here is is necessary for Ford to promote the benefits of the F250 without slighting the F150. One example of a slogan might be, F250 Super Duty – Super Duty trucks for super duty towing.

These concepts also apply to services and blends of products and services.  Over the past 5 years, convenience stores have been changing to meet the changing needs of the marketplace.  They still carry an assortment of goods at prices slightly inflated over normal grocery prices, but now they are using that feature to create a new benefit.

If you want to eat healthier, a convenience store might not be the first option that comes to mind.  But what if it was? People willing to buy fresh food have more money than time typically. As a result, convenience stores are now selling fresh fruit, hot meals, protein bars and athletic drinks, and even delivering to your home.

The feature is that the convenience store sells an assortment of foods and items that you can quickly purchase close to home.  The benefit is that you can now grab a (relatively) healthy meal or snack in between meetings or on the road. 

Convenience stores offering the new healthy options alongside the typical roller hot dogs and candy bars are differentiating themselves from other stores that don’t have the capital or desire to invest in the systems and logistics needed to maintain a fresh food supply.  More drivers might turn right into the newer, cleaner, healthier gas station than turn left into the long-time neighborhood gas station.

From a digital perspective, you need to offer the products, services, and experiences on your website that cause visitors to click on your links rather than those of a competitor.