This seemingly counter-intuitive strategy is as under-utilized as it is unknown to marketers. The logical thing to do is to make the greatest product possible, and everyone will want to buy it. This makes sense, and it works if the product is incredibly good (like the iPhone), but not all of the time. This strategy fails in our present market due to the tremendous amount of competition from other companies who are selling an equally ‘better’ product. What is the result? A market place filled with ‘the best’. In other words a sea of undifferentiated products, all claiming to be the same thing. Leaving the consumer in a mental fog of brands.
A classic example of this is Coke and Pepsi. On blind taste testing Pepsi has clearly shown to be the best tasting and preferred drink. However when tested without blindfolds consumers choose Coke. So even though Pepsi tasted best people choose Coke instead. How can Pepsi win? By being different. In the early 2000s they had achieved this, by taking the position of the cola of the new generation, new, different. And by doing so they repositioned their competition Coke as being old and for old people. This was a great success and increased their market share. However since then they have diluted their ‘differentness’, tried to appeal to everyone and have lost their market share.
How can I use this?
Small businesses can use the technique of differentiation too, and it is even more essential since there is usually very little differentiation in the mind of customers when they think of local small businesses.
The way to go about it is to either 1) find an already existing point of difference in your service/product and promote it, or 2) create a point of difference in your service/product and promote that.
A company may have a superior quality control procedure which no other company does. This makes your product seem more trustworthy, valuable, safe etc. This is very different and can be promoted as such.
A company may have use a modern or unique form of technology which no other company uses. This makes your product seem more modern, progressive, intelligent etc. This also is different and can be promoted.
Aside from products and service a company can also be different by the way it handles customer service, and then promote that as a differentiating point. Anything from flexible hours, return/exchange policies, incentives, friendly staff, etc could fall into this category. This also has the added effect of creating loyal customers since they had such a positive experience, and increases retention.
Of course if a company does not have any differentiating factors as listed above they can always create them, and make themselves different.
Whatever point of difference the company decides to go with, they have to actually have that difference, and then promote it. If it does not get promoted then no one will know about your difference and you will remain the same in their mind.