All businesses, especially those in the service industry, struggle with distinguishing their business and services from those of competitors. Scott McKain, tackles this issue in, Create Distinction: What to Do When “Great” Isn’t Good Enough to Grow Your Business. Scott is a leading expert on business and professional distinction, the founder of the Ultimate Customer Experience, and also cofounder of The Value Added Institute, a think-tank that examines the role of the customer experience in creating significant advances in the level of client loyalty.
McKain examines many of the ways businesses attempt to compete with their competitors. He accurately points out, though, that most businesses spend too much of their time evaluating their competitors and competing with them, instead of “competing for the customer.”
However, distinction is not relevant; it only matters from our perspective, and not from the customer’s. This is a great line and a great point for all businesses to focus on, especially service businesses. Again, distinction is only relevant if the customer thinks it’s relevant.
McKain pays particular attention to what he describes the 4 C’s of Distinction: Clarity, Creativity, Communication, and Customer experience focus. The most revealing part of this list is what is NOT included: Price, the product itself, and product quality. Importantly, he hypothesizes that price, product itself, product quality, customer service, and differentiation planning sessions, will not differentiate you in today’s world. This is because they are often too easily matched by competitors and will become obsolete because of technological advances. Instead of differentiating yourself, you need to be distinctive.
I really enjoyed McKain’s on how to create the “ultimate customer experience.” He gives specific strategies to create this distinction and differentiation. One example he shares is High Point University offering its student dry cleaning, movie tickets, wake up calls, and other amenities that do not come standard with other schools. These “perks” are what shape its students overall experience. Importantly, he also provides you with various additional resources that you can turn to as you differentiate your business.
Another great element of the book was the synopsis at the end of each chapter to reinforce the concepts. This also allows you to review the concepts in the book without entirely re-reading it.
The one area I felt lacking was, like many business books in this genre, real world examples of distinction versus differentiation; examples of businesses focusing on customers versus competitors. I’m a true believer that these types of stories can give businesses a head start in their process. I definitely recommend that reading this book along with Creative Confidence: Unleashing the Creative Potential Within Us All by Tom and David Kelley, as complimentary as it provides tools to help you create the differentiation and distinction discussed in this book.
How do you differentiate your business, and is that differentiation really important to the customer, or is merely how you distinguish yourself from your competitor? Let me know your thoughts.