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Points of Difference

If you've ever been around anyone who talks about positioning, you've probably heard them talk about points of difference, differentiation, or the concept of key differentiators.

A point of difference is a something about the brand that makes it different from other competing brands. But a good point of difference won't just revel in its different-ness; it must also be something your customers would value.

Let's look at an example that highlights good and bad points of difference.

Who Wants Mexican?

I love Mexican food and think it is awesome that I can go anywhere in the country and find a Mexican restaurant. But even though there are probably lots of people like me out there who love Mexican food, my guess is the Mexican restaurant business is pretty tough.

There is a lot of competition, and many of the restaurants tend to look (and often taste) alike. So, if you wanted to open a new Mexican restaurant, how could you ensure it'd stand out?

If you were thinking in terms of creating solid points of difference, you'd probably start by thinking about what customers would value in a Mexican restaurant. Since I'm a bit of a Mexican connoisseur, let me start with what I value in a Mexican restaurant. In order of priority:

  1. Cleanliness
  2. Freshness of ingredients
  3. Tasty salsa
  4. Good carne asada
  5. Price

Say you happened to be opening this restaurant in a place where there were many other people who shared my idea of what is important in a Mexican restaurant. Let's also say that there were a lot of Mexican restaurants already open in the area competing for the attention of people who valued price, quantity of food, and good margaritas.

To stand out, you might consider cleanliness, freshness of ingredients, and tasty salsa as three things you want to focus on as points of difference for your restaurant brand. By focusing on these three things, you could make your restaurant very different in a way that potential customers would actually value. Victory!

By starting with what your potential customers value and then thinking about what makes you different, you have a better chance for success than if you start with just the things that make you different.

Here's another example to highlight this point. What if your claim to fame is that you know how to make an incredibly good, incredibly authentic Mexican posole (a stew) featuring pigs' feet? In fact, it is widely known that no one in the entire world can make a better pigs' feet posole than you.

You should be very proud. But you shouldn't for a second believe that your great posole is a good point of difference for your restaurant. Why? Most Americans aren't that crazy about pigs' feet, and no matter how good your stew is, they probably won't buy it from you. Your posole is certainly different and probably very tasty (at least to those into that sort of thing), but it is not something your customers would value, so it is not a good point of difference. Get the idea? Or am I just making you hungry?

In the next few chapters, I show you some ways to ensure you are uncovering points of difference for your brand that will not only help you stand out but will also be valued by your customers.

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