How do you stand out from the crowd?
In the last article, we spoke about the importance of product. Now, unless you’re bringing to market a new, never before seen product, you need to know how to differentiate yourself from the competition.
“You have two strong options,” says Nutbourne’s Marcus Evans. “You either differentiate yourself on price or you differentiate yourself on a feature. The option you choose depends on your market, how competitive it is and the need your product fulfils. Price can be tricky to get right, whereas feature gives you a strong identity.”
When Nutbourne began trading in the densely populated IT support market, the company chose to differentiate itself on how the service was delivered. Broadly speaking, there isn’t much difference between what IT support can do, but there are many ways it can be delivered.
“We differentiate ourselves in the IT support market with the account management and friendly customer feel, and initially by being the punchy new company that has a personal touch,” Marcus says.
“We use jargon-free language on the phone, focus strongly on developing relationships and building trust. We do this very deliberately so that we’re not another break and fix, faceless IT company.”
As your organisation grows, you will have to re-examine how you differentiate yourself from the market, Marcus advises. For example, as Nutbourne has increased in size, it has become harder to maintain the small, punchy, new kid on the block stance, he says. Through constant self-assessment though, the company has tweaked its approach to suit its position, while retaining its original ethos.
“We’ve carried out a lot of analysis. We know that with the smaller companies we work with, we still need to be communicative and relationship-led. As we’ve started to work with medium and large companies our approach has changed. We’re coming up against professional organisations for that work, ones that have all the documentation right, systems and software in place, accreditations, and a message that matches the large company ethos.
“If you want to enter that arena you need to put all of those things in place while still being unique.”
Marcus adds that it has been an iterative process and one that has improved at each stage. He believes it is wholly necessary to support the company’s growth.
“A large company doesn’t want to entrust itself to a company that’s only been around for a year; it’s a gamble. When you’re a larger company you need to know the service meets the needs of your business, it employs people of a certain level – and that is different from when we started the business.
“Firstly your barrier is being likeable, then it’s being professional, and then it’s differentiated on features. What can you provide to a business of 1,000 people? What assurances can you give them? They take it as a given that you’re professional and that your guys are likeable and competent – but what is it you do differently? If you can demonstrate that, then your business will fly.”