Whither Differentiation?

The issue of differentiation has come up a lot recently for all of the obvious reasons. Everyone is in search of it, only a cherished few truly find it, and an even smaller number of THOSE lucky devils actually got there on purpose.  Some companies differentiate on product features, some differentiate on brand, some on price and on and on.  Anyway, you have read the books, you don’t need me to recite first year marketing pabulum.

I am in the B2B services industry, where differentiation is a commodity in and of itself.  While not impossible, finding true differentiation might be pretty close to it.  But the question I am grappling with is more fundamental. In the end, does it really matter?  And further, is there anything or anyone representing true differentiation out there anymore?

This is heresy of course, so my working hypothesis is that it does, but maybe not in the ways we are trained to believe.

I will examine this issue periodically through the lens of my industry, which has significantly different issues than a consumer products company. But at the same time its dominated by the likes of IBM, Accenture, and Wipro ,companies who have significant cache and a differentiated brand.

So what do you think? Read anything interesting recently that could add to the discussion? Add your comment here.

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2 Responses

  1. For what it’s worth, I believe that differentiation in B2B comes down to your people and the relationships they are able to develop with clients. In CPG, you develop a relationship with the brand, in B2B, the company IS your rep and their team. If they changed names, logos, websites, etc., you would stick with them.

    Of course, I also think this is why “social” media are so critical to biz dev in B2B.

    • Great point Mathew. At Ness we have a extraordinarily loyal customers. That is because we have shown that we are flexible and care about making them successful first and foremost. That spirit of shared success really drives growth and retention. And it starts with our people of course, which unfortunately has become hackneyed in 2009, but good work can be ruined by bad people, and challenging situations can be saved by good people. Unfortunately that doesn’t work in an RFP process, you have to live it and breathe it and SHOW it every day. Only then do you earn the trust that you truly do care about the clients success

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