Glad sandwich bags needed a way to get noticed.

A staple of homes everywhere, the Glad Corporation would seem to have their product marketing down pat. But facing rising competition, they knew they had to find a way to make their packaging jump out on the shelves. Their solution was adding a zip-lock feature and, later, a color-based sealing technique, two innovations that visually differentiated their bags in supermarkets and offered customers something other kitchen bag companies lacked. With these simple-but-effective innovations, Glad discovered a way to differentiate their brand from the competition. What can you learn from their example?

Achieving brand differentiation for commodities and highly technical products is challenging marketers and salespeople more than ever. A recent Crain’s BtoBMagazine study found that 79% of B2B marketers surveyed in the U.S. named brand differentiation as a top priority, but 60% are still unhappy with their differentiation efforts. In an age of more competitive markets and information overload, finding a way to make your customers’ products and services stand out from the crowd is a crucial challenge. Relying on email, newsletters and cold calling won’t cut it. Instead, smart brand differentiation requires creative presentation techniques that show you understand, not just the customer’s product or service, but the values and ideas that drive it.  Attention to detail–from product samples and packaging to finding ways to reflect a company’s values through sustainable materials or 24-access to representatives–is a good place to start to connect with a client’s needs.

Here are 5 key strategies to successfully showing off your product and helping a client differentiate its brand:

1.  Connect emotionally to create trust: While B2B strategies often rely on cost-benefit analyses and risky and feasibility assessments, a CEB/Google study (compiling results from 3,000 B2B buyers across 36 brands, and incorporating interviews with 50 B2B marketing organizations) discovered that customers are actually more likely to make their buying decisions through a combination of instinct, emotion and rationalization. Business value has its place, but personal value can be a way for a smart marketer to emotionally differentiate a brand.

Remember– you’re not just selling to a company – you’re selling to a person. Only 14% of clients notice enough differentiation to be willing to pay extra. Getting to know the client’s values can create a mutual connection that can shape sales decisions and allow you to differentiate your company as one that connects.

2.  Become an expert in your client’s intangibles: Part of that emotional connection comes from understanding a client’s values. You can use market research to discover a client’s values beyond ROI, and then tailor your approach. What are the silent factors (risk aversion, reliability, sustainability. etc.) not listed a company’s web-page that might be driving decision-making, and how can your shape your approach to meet those needs? Sometimes, focusing on two or three important features that address those intangibles is more effective than trying to communicate every feature of your product.

3.  Instill confidence through a superior customer service experience: In a crowded marketplace, where competitors’ offerings will be of a similar high quality, you can differentiate yourself through superior service. Free samples or installs, money-back guarantees, and extended warranties or guarantees are all ways to make clients feel secure and confident in your brand.

4.  Create a unique buying experience: What are you really good at? What service does your business provide that can make meetings with a client stand out in their memory? Identifying and deploying these unique skills– from research and development, to design and aesthetics–can add cache to the client’s experience.

Let’s say you make granite counter tops; having a member of the design team sit in on the meetings and offer ideas can show the client that your company provides elegant design solutions. If you make stethoscope components, offer the R&D team for a consultation, which can create a feeling of security in the client about your team’s abilities. Such steps create a disciplined, imaginative and consistent approach to product presentation that can lead to faster and more favorable decisions.

5.  Improve presentation to renew your image: A product that stands out can really grab the client, and even the best product needs unique presentation. Think of the Glad sandwich bag example noted above, and ask yourself, what is your “zip-lock feature”? What is the simple but striking way in which you can differentiate your product in a crowded marketplace? For instance, if you’re offering clients paint samples, rather than showing a stack of colors that’s easy to get lost in, you could offer a custom booklet of shades and photographs that represent the moods you’ve discussed. Drawing on some of the other strategies discussed here–from understanding a client’s intangibles, to making an emotional connection, to deploying on your company’s unique resources–can help to tailor an approach to the product and the client that differentiates your brand and increases the value of your product.

In the end, the key to these 5 keys is to get to know the client and their needs, and then tailor a custom-made approach that draws on and blends appropriate differentiation strategies to everyone’s benefit. By following combinations of the strategies above, you can make your business stand out, shorten sales cycles, and create relationships that achieve brand differentiation and demonstrate that you are the best fit for your customers’ needs.

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