Upside-Down Thinking by Patric Fransko
by Patric Fransko
August 3rd, 2016

Find Your Marketing Epicenter

My first job after college was with Schwinn Cycling & Fitness where I learned some really great marketing lessons. At the time, Schwinn was in a battle with Trek for the number one spot in the bike industry. Price points were very competitive, and many times the specifications between the two brands at a particular price were nearly identical. To stand out, it was critical that they create differentiating factors between their product and that of the competition.fransko

One of the ways that Schwinn did this was through the use of what was called an Epicenter rear- end. This was simply a bend in the seat that stayed where the brakes mounted. It not only looked different, but it was said to improve the braking performance of the frames. Without going into too much detail, I want to draw two lessons from this that may help you find your own “Marketing Epicenter,” so you can differentiate your product from that of your competition.

1. It’s okay to look different.

The Schwinn Epicenter rear looked different than the other models at the bike shop. In a sea of very similar bikes, this allowed the Schwinn models to stand out. Likewise, you should position your company to have differences from your competition in order to stand out from the crowd. Whether that is the design of your website, product offering, company space or how the employees dress, you do not want to look like a me-too when it comes to business. Be intentional about creating a positive differentiation that makes you memorable in a crowded field. Make sure the difference is more than just superficial.

2. Back up the looks with substance.

While it’s important to create differences, they should be based in a real or perceived benefit. With Epicenter, it was improved braking performance. With your company, an open corporate space might be utilized to stimulate a more collaborative environment that produces better results for the client. A very tech oriented space that utilizes the latest technology in the process of doing the work might send the message that your company is ahead of the curve. Whatever the difference is, you should have a reason for why it exists that benefits the customer.

That last part is important, and I don’t want you to miss it.

The difference must relate to a real or perceived value for your customer. You must connect the dots for them. It is not enough to just be different. That difference must benefit the customer in some way for it to be meaningful.

I know that many of you operate in a very competitive market where equivalent products make standing out difficult. If you are not intentional about creating differences, customers often resort to the only comparable they have—price.

Competition of price alone is a losing battle because there will always be someone that’s willing to sell for less. My hope is that this article encourages you to take a close look at how you can create a market differentiation that is tied to a customer benefit. This will enable you to separate yourself from the pack in a way not tied solely to price.

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