Did you ever ask yourself what do I need to do to make my product unique and sell more? Off course you did, but I bet you always try to add more features to your product/service or if you have nothing to add you will call desperately for lowering the price to compete more and have more market share.
This article is not about the conventional differentiation methods or pricing strategies, this article triggers the creative thinking for new differentiation points that will open new doors for endless possibilities of making your product/service more appealing accessible and convenient for your target audience.
People buy your products or service for ONE main reason.. simply to consume it or use it!!
That is why the answer for creative differentiation is so simple and yet not easy to do, following your customers using your product all through the usage cycle is one answer for creative differentiation, for sure there are more to do, but watching and mapping your product consumption path will definitely answer the most of differentiation and uniqueness questions more widely and more creatively, and in the next few lines I will put you through the amazing journey in the consumption map and will put my hands on the most important questions you need to answer in order to approach the creative and unconventional differentiation.
Mapping Consumption Chain
Here are the set of questions you may want to answer to follow your customers through the consumption chain of your product/service:
How people become aware that they need your product?
The first step in consumption chain may start before needing or wanting the product.. as in many cases customers they don’t even realize that they need your product or service, so if this question fits your product then the answer may open the possibility for new differentiation criteria (how is that?)..
For example in the tooth brushes market, consumers normally use the toothbrush for long period more than the toothbrush effective life period, and don’t realize the time that they should change the toothbrush in. Oral-B the tooth brushes company realized that behavior in the product consumption and came with a patent toothbrush with blue color in the tooth brush that fades through the product usage and when the blue color is gone this will be the sign that your toothbrush is worn and needs changing.
This patent idea that came through mapping consumption chain gave Oral-B company a new competitive advantage and new point of differentiation the was never possible through the normal differentiation methods.
So thinking for an answer to the question of how people become aware that they need your product may be a powerful differentiation key for you.
And this in way very relative to the question of what are the pain points of your customers that your product or service cover, but from another point of view with another more creative approach.
How consumers find your product?
Are your products or services available when needed? Are they existing in the right place/time when consumers want to use it, if succeeded in answering that question from the consumer point of view you may find new differentiation point that puts you ahead in the competition, a good example of that is the availability of Starbucks coffee inside the car gas stations, as they realized through mapping the consumption chain that drivers usually need a cup of coffee and snack through their road journey, but also they don’t want loose time or don’t even have the enough time to sit on a café shop, so they added mini branches in the gas stations to satisfy the consumer needs in convenient way, and this example applies also on mini McDonalds and lots of fast food providers.
How consumers make their final selection?
A quick answer.. make it easy while others make it hard, try make all your product buying procedures as easy as possible and enable more consumers to use your products.. for example one used car dealer makes the customers sit on computer program and select the features they want the most in their cars, and show the customers the best cars that suits their needs, and makes the buying process more easier by handling all the financing and insurance procedures, making the car buying experience as easy as possible.
How do customers purchase your products?
This is one of the most important and yet easy questions, but answering it needs lots of ongoing study and watching out for new and updated buying patterns and unconventional selling channels to come with creative differentiation points that may differentiate your offering from competitors, think of delivery possibility for a product or service that is not usually easy to deliver (you make it easy), think of payment options (make them a lot as much as possible), think of your invoice and if it is easy to understand, think of ordering process is it easy and clear enough, think of offered exceptions..
There are a lot of differentiation points in this area than you can imagine, but you don’t need to apply them all, you only need to focus on the most important areas from your customers point of view, and this is never possible without a close mapping for your customer buying behavior and consumption mapping.
What is your product status when it is not used?
We usually think of the product when it is in use, how about the off times, the times when your product is not in use, is it easy to store? Is it easy to move? (for large or heavy products), is it movable from place to place inside home, or from county to country..
Do you help your consumers using your products?
Do you offer 24/7 customer service? Do you have good exchange or return policies? As the Nordstrom famous (No questions asked return policy) that was challenged when one of their sales persons returned a set of car tires they did not sell from the start, just to keep they customers feel good about their stores even if they are unhappy of any of the brand they sell or even don’t sell!!
Last but not least what about your product disposal?
Do you teach your customers how to dispose the unwanted pieces of your products after consumption, many printing companies offer to take the empty parts like printer ink cartridges after using it and refurbish it again instead of throwing in garbage.
For sure this an endless process and may differ from product/service to another, also you only need to apply what is more important to your customers according to your product type and the value you need to deliver from your product/service usage.
Also this concept of mapping customers consumption chain is attached and may complement other marketing approaches of building a superior value for your costumers, so it is not an idea to apply and leave all marketing value creation process behind, it is an accumulated process that you need to pass through to build unique creative points of differentiation that will help you stand up in the competition.