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Distinguishing Marks: How to Differentiate Your Own "Shiny Object" From Your Competitor's

It would be fantastic to have a franchise that is so far and away superior to anything else on the market that there is simply no comparison. In the real world, most of us have competitors that have products and services (shiny objects) that perform reasonably well compared to ours.

So, once you have figured out how to make your own product shine, you need to figure out how to get your customer to take notice of your product instead of the other guy's.

I have assembled nine tactics that I have successfully used over the years with a variety of franchise organizations. Not every tactic works for every product or service. You need to carefully consider both the short term strategy and long term objectives in choosing which tactic to use.

Put a bow on it - Package it differently from your competition. Look for new and unique ways to wrap it up. It may be true that you can't tell a book by its cover. But the publication industry figured out years ago that the cover sells the book. In some cases, this is literally a package. In most cases, it is the method you use to present your product or service to the customer. Look for new and fresh approaches.

Put a spotlight on it - Create some sort of event around your product or service in order to get it out in public view. This is true for consumer and non-consumer products alike. We once created a design contest for a home furnishing franchise that was really no different than the hundreds of design contests before it. The big difference is we put together a huge event where we glorified the winner. After conducting this contest for a few years, the event became a bigger motivator for entrants than the actual prize.

Put it on a velvet pillow - Make it seem very special. While other companies simply hand their shiny object around for people to take a look at, you might consider requiring an appointment. You also might want to tie the product to its royal heritage in order to heighten its appeal. Every product has a heritage. Find out the shiny objects of its predecessors and use them to your advantage. Another way to make it special is to attach it to the superior services the customer will receive once they've purchased the product.

Deny the customer access - This might sound a little strange but people want what they can't have. As one tactic, you might want to make your product a bit more expensive to elevate it from the rabble. You can also put people on a waiting list. Even if there is no backlog or actual scarcity of the product, a waiting list is like saying, "Sign up right now and you might be lucky enough to purchase one."

Shatter all the other shiny objects - Compare and contrast your product with the competition. There is nothing wrong with revealing the problems in the other products if there truly are problems. At the very least, you can pick those features and benefits where you excel.

Put it in a glass case - Make it seem rare and unique. You can even offer a certificate of authenticity to validate its rarity. For non-consumer products, certification is an excellent method to make sure your shiny object stands out from the crowd.

Make a threat - I don't mean threaten the customer, but create an implied ill-effect if the customer doesn't buy this product. For example, "If you don't use our product, the environment will suffer." or "A dollar from every purchase goes to help a charity. We can't do it without your support."

Offer a free polish - Once they have the shiny object, offer to shine it up for them once in a while. This could be in the form of free services such as a periodic product check-up, free inspection, upgrades, or physically cleaning it. The main point is to stress that once your customer purchases the product, they won't be abandoned. You'll be there to make sure they continue to have a positive experience.

Attach a borrowed interest - Sometimes, there isn't anything inherent about your product that makes the shiny object any shinier than your competition. In these cases, you may need to borrow the interest of another shiny object and attach it to yours. For example, get a celebrity endorsement or the testimonial of an industry-know personality. You can also borrow the interest of another product that has a similar feature to yours such as, "Our car has the exact same steering mechanism as a Ferrari."

It often isn't enough to simply be shiny. As discussed above, your product has to outshine the other shiny objects in the room. Whatever technique you use to make your shiny object stand out from the rest, it is important to make sure it is consistent with your brand. Standing out just to stand out can actually be destructive to your brand if you portray something that is contrary to your brand promise. However, carefully crafted and skillfully implemented, a strong differentiation can put you in the coveted category of successful shiny objects.

David LaBonte is a seasoned marketing professional, with over 30 years of experience. President and partner of AdMatrix, an Orange County, California-based marketing/advertising agency, LaBonte teaches futuristic marketing techniques to clients across the country. Author of the book, Shiny Objects Marketing (published by Wiley and Sons), LaBonte writes articles for marketing publications and blogs, and trains entrepreneurs in his successful marketing philosophy called Shiny Objects Marketing.

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