Find Your Key Differentiator

[26 Ways to Gain A Competitive Brand Advantage]

Building a brand is a game of strategy and one of the very first strategic tasks is to identify the key differentiator your brand will be recognised for.

But why is having a key differentiator so important?

How do you know if yours is valuable?

And…

How do you go about finding a unique key differentiator for your brand?

Well, keep reading and you’ll find out.

Building a brand is a game of strategy and one of the very first strategic tasks is to identify the key differentiator your brand will be recognised for.

But why is having a key differentiator so important?

How do you know if yours is valuable?

And…

How do you go about finding a unique key differentiator for your brand?

Well, keep reading and you’ll find out.

Contents Show Contents

What Is A Brand’s Key Differentiator?

Brands are developed for one reason and one reason only.

To make a business seem more appealing to its target audience so they choose that business over its competitors. It’s that simple.

Through its messaging, visual appearance and overall experience, the brand attempts to influence the audience’s decision to choose that brand.

In order to do that effectively, the brand must give that audience a compelling reason to make that choice.

That reason is the key differentiator.

Key Differentiator Definition

To put it as succinctly as possible, a key differentiator is a brand’s distinct and unique value that sets itself apart from its competitors within the market.

This differentiator and unique value answers the question:

Why would I choose this brand over one of its competitors?

Also known as your USP or Unique Selling Proposition, the key differentiator very clearly distinguishes itself from the other options that exist within that market.

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Product Differentiator
vs Brand Differentiator

Differentiation strategies are at play on different levels throughout a business.

Each product or service a business has should have its own unique difference from similar products or services available on the market.

When it comes to brands however, the differentiation strategy refers to the brand’s overall experience.

This experience may include unique features and benefits, an innovative purchasing experience or outstanding customer service.

Any experience the customer might encounter on their buyers journey is all part of the brand experience and therefore every touch point is an opportunity for the brand to differentiate the experience.

Characteristics Of A Key Differentiator?

key differentiator value

Before defining your differentiator, it’s critical to ensure that you inject the relevant characteristics into your strategy.

Without any one of these characteristics, your differentiation strategy may not have its intended effect.

Your key differentiator should be:

Unique
Your competitors should not be able to find the exact same experience from one of your competitors. Of course they may find similar products or services, but your experience should be unique.

Valuable
Your audience should place a level of value on the difference you offer whether that’s a monetary value, a time value, a convenience value or any other value. (i.e. how does it improve their lives?).

Defendable
Your differentiation strategy should not be easily replicated. For example if your differentiation strategy is based on low price, your competitors can easily replicate your price-point making your differentiation strategy redundant.

Using A Key Differentiator Template
(What is The Onliness Statement?)

The onliness statement is a term that was coined by Marty Nuemeier in his book “Zag”.  It was distilled from the “Unique Selling Proposition” and provides a very simple key differentiator template to help in identifying your key differentiator.

Our [Blank] is the only [Blank] that [Blank’s]

Or

Our [Offer] is the only [Category] that [Benefit]

Though there is a lot more to your differentiation strategy than filling in a template, it’s an effective tool in distilling your ideas.

If you try to mean all things to everyone you’ll end up meaning nothing to anyone.

Ways To Differentiate Your Brand

The ways to differentiate your brand are quite simply endless.

Differentiation strategy is a game of creative thinking and key differentiators are only constrained by the limits of imagination.

If you’re creative enough, you can find a unique differentiator for your brand regardless of the industry you’re in.

To get your creative juices pumping, here are some examples of ways to differentiate your brand.

Example #1
Specialise In Your Market

This is one of the most basic differentiation strategies you can apply. We value those who specialise in their field and do one thing really well.

What can you let go of to focus on specialisation?

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Example #2
Role Specialisation

This is an effective B2B differentiation strategy which involves appealing to a specific organizational role within an industry.

For example, if you’re head of sales at an IT firm, you’ll feel in good hands if your coach specialises in helping people in your exact position.

Example #3
Unique Sales Experience

If you can take your customer on a journey through the buying process that stands apart from industry norms your audience will appreciate the uniqueness and see it as a breath of fresh air.

Build-a-bear workshop is a great example of this. They don’t just create unique cuddly toys, they provide a fun, interactive and customisable experience.

Example #3
Niche Service Specialisation

Providing a very specific service can help you to be more relevant for those only looking for those services.

For example a business that wants to advertise on facebook, will find a facebook ads agency more relevant than a broader digital marketing agency.

Example #5
Alternative Approach

Many businesses within a given sector often have a similar approach to solving a problem.

Brands that can break industry norm and approach the problem from a different perspe