Alan's corner: How companies can build their unique proposition
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Alan’s corner: How companies can build their unique proposition

Alan’s corner: How companies can build their unique proposition

Differentiation and relevance of your proposition now has to be considered in a wider context

Gulf Business

In boardrooms and meetings rooms all across the world, there is one sentiment that everybody is in agreement with.

The speed, the volume and the complexity of change is increasing exponentially. This statement was true even before Covid-19, so you can only imagine the further increases in recent times.

One emerging phenomenon as a result of this change that I want to focus on, is commoditisation. There was a time when you might have been able to differentiate yourself from the competition with your product alone. Barriers to entry continue to drop as technology and globalisation enables shorter development lead times.

There is always somebody biting at your heels. In addition to that is the yet unknown competition coming from disruptors. Did airlines even dream of a low-cost disruptive airline like Ryanair 30 years ago? Did the hospitality sector ever think that Airbnb could become such a challenger?

Right across industry, legacy sectors and products have become commoditised, i.e. more freely available. This brings with it a downward pressure on price, therefore your margin. Differentiation and relevance of your proposition now has to be considered in a wider context. I believe the answer is in the overall customer experience you offer your customers, regardless of whether you are B2C or B2B.

That is where you will find your unique selling proposition (USP).


Last month, I introduced you to a three-legged stool framework to define your proposition. The legs represent product, people and place.

Conduct a strengths/weaknesses exercise on your product range. Seek feedback from your customers and your own team. Use this checklist to ask yourself the right questions.

What are the main differences between your product and those of your key competitors? Can you get a premium on your pricing because of those differences? Or if you wish to price-match with your competition, is there a story in your differences that has sustainable value for your customers? Are they relevant?

What can you say you have real authority in? What can you say you own? For example, Selfridges in London has the largest selection of ladies shoes in the world. But of course, because the store sells more than footwear, the shoes department drives footfall into the store for other departments also.

Place refers to the physical environment if you are a retail store or hotel. Consider this checklist:

  • Are your standards and housekeeping matching your brand positioning?
  • How do you rate your ambience and the vibe in your store? Consider sight, sound, smell, taste and touch in this checklist.
  • From the carpark, throughout your premises, to the point of payment, how do you rate your access and the level of effort required of your customer?
    When did you last trial it yourself to experience it as a customer?

Place can also refer to your route to market if you are a B2B organisation.

How appropriate and flexible is your delivery schedule? How do you package your goods for your customer? From small packets to pallets, consider the level of care taken in your outbound logistics. With regard to your online presence, consider your landing pages, navigation, ease of ordering and payment.

In this article, it may look like the 3Ps all have equal importance. But of course they don’t. While every industry is different, I personally believe that people carries more weight in most cases. The main points to consider here are ‘connect, consult and conclude’.

Do your people at all touch-points connect with your customers in a way that is friendly, welcoming and professional? Do they truly listen to understand their needs? And do they conclude each and every time by doing everything they said they would do, and show

In previous months, you will have heard me say that ‘customer experience is the new battleground’. My current work as a change consultant and keynote speaker across all industries is proving this point more and more. Covid-19 has nudged us further along this journey. Regardless of your industry, you simply cannot ignore it.

Alan O’Neill is the managing director of Kara, a change consultant and speaker

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