Even if the service you provide is customary, traditional, and probably offered by your competition, you should make it appear unique just as well.
Remember that perception is more powerful than truth. You don't need to emphasize that your product or service is unique, better than the competition, or even the best for that matter. Doing so by declaring that it is can sometimes be worse than not saying anything at all, and the reason for that is that it makes your self-serving claim appear suspect or exaggerated.
For instance, if you told people that you're product or service is number one in the marketplace, your clients will probably either laugh at you or in the very least question your statement. But if you put a name on your product or service (and trademark it if possible), you will indirectly cast an aura of exclusivity and superiority and do so without utterly flaunting it.
By the way, please note that unique trademarks don't need to be registered, unless you are looking for financial compensation if someone ever copies you. In that case, you must go through a trademark lawyer to register your name. I am not a lawyer and please do not consider this as legal advice. I strongly recommend that you see a trademark or corporate lawyer for assistance in this area, especially if you're seeking to prevent any form of piracy.
However, once you've conducted a thorough search and as a result found that your trademark is indeed original, after formally registering your trademark you will be able to use the “” (or registered trademark symbol) rather than the “TM” in all your communications — and keep copycats at bay or even sue them should they ever use your names or taglines.
Nevertheless, keep in mind that perception is powerful. When it comes to the perception of a product or service, it will generally fall into either one of three categories. (This is especially true with services since they are intangible.) The first one is the “customary,” the second is the “assumed,” and the third is the “unique.” Let's take a look at each element in more detail.
You might be a bookkeeper offering an income tax service as part of your portfolio — one that is widely offered by most bookkeepers these days. But don't just leave it like that. Say “Ask us about our special ‘Total Tax Tranquility' service.” If you're a dry cleaner offering a tie cleaning service (as most dry-cleaners do), don't just call it a “tie cleaning service,” call it, “Bring your ties out of retirement with our ‘Re-TIE-rement Reversal'.”
Before we go any further, you're probably thinking that you're a professional businessperson representing a high class, high quality product or service, and that this type of strategy is too “hokey” or that it doesn't apply to you.
When I started out in business, I was a business development consultant specializing in medical practices. Dealing with a professional clientele, I heard this type of objection all the time. However, I still say that it is possible for you to use this technique, even in these circumstances — and probably more so since doctors and professionals are prohibited from claiming superiority.
For instance, I often search the local yellow pages, in the doctor and dentist sections, to find potential clients. One day, I was immediately struck by an ad from a particular dentist who specializes in pain and anxiety management. He has an anesthetist on staff, and uses intravenous and general sedation for his patients in order to make dental work a more comfortable experience. Most dentists offer this “ordinary” service. But what did his ad say?
The headline was made up of two simple words: “Dream Dentistry.”
Even if your service is customary or similar to that of your competitor's, by putting a name on an often nameless product you cast an aura of uniqueness and superiority — without having to state it outright. As one of my mentors used to say, “Implication is more powerful than specification!”
The resulting effect is that not only will the name keep you in the back of your prospects' minds but it will also create curiosity, arouse interest and enhance desire. By and large, if people had to choose between a general product and one that implies a better or more unique kind of product (with some kind of added value), more than likely they will go for the second option.
For instance, if you owned an imported car that needed a brake job, whom would you choose: A general mechanic? Or one who specializes in imported cars by marketing with, “Are your brakes screaming in a different language? See us for your Quicker-than-Customs foreign car brake inspection”?
You get the picture. (Whoops! I'm getting ahead of myself again, since this example also reflects Commandment #4, which is the power of specialization. But I guess you're getting used to me by now, right?)
Speaking of mechanics, are you a mechanic and, as normal practice, offer free estimates? If you are a mechanic, you most likely do. Suffice it to say, pretty much everybody expects free estimates from mechanics or garages these days. However, as simple as it may sound, if you specify that which is usually taken for granted, you help to make your name stick in the mind!
For example, you might call your free estimate, “The Hassle Freedom Formula” or the “No Greater than Guesstimate Estimate.” Or your tagline could even be something like, “Where Smiles and Estimates are Free!”
It might sound silly but this process is so simple… And it works. People may or may not know that garages offer free estimates and, more often than not, they only assume that they do. But with a name in which people are indirectly told that estimates are free, people are now assured that they provide them!
In other words, you're turning an assumed product or service into an assured one in the minds of people. And in this day and age where people no longer have time to search for specific information, when they'll need a free estimate your name will pop into their minds instantaneously.
This simple technique is indeed remarkably effective.
As shown in the previous example, making the ordinary extraordinary is like turning the assumed into the assured. Assurance is a great marketing strategy. In fact, there is an immense power behind guarantees, and I love marketing on this remarkable concept. Some people think that guarantees are outdated, overused, and ineffective. Others think that they are not necessary or will increase returns. I know for a fact that that's not true.
People not only love guarantees, but as I said earlier, in today's competitive marketplace you need to stand out like a sore thumb. And a good way to do this is by offering a guarantee in one form or another so that, when placed side-by-side with a competitor, you will be the one who's chosen.
Guarantees sometimes frighten people because it involves taking a great risk on the part of the entrepreneur. The possible loss of revenue is a frightening idea for many people. But if you have a good product, have had good experience with it and believe in it wholeheartedly, guarantees can become powerful weapons in building sales. They communicate instant credibility.
As a matter of fact, guarantees help to reduce returns. Why? They are often perceived as an expression of confidence in the product or service. With scams, schemes and snake oils rampant, people have a tendency to forgive far more easily businesses that are credible, have greater customer service and have shown, through guarantees, to believe in their products.
Guarantees not only increase sales but also communicate confidence, trust and superiority — including the perception of superior customer service.
Nevertheless, if you still wish to avoid guarantees or if your type of work stops you from doing so (as in the case of doctors who are legally prohibited from doing so), there are three key areas here you may want to consider.
First, does your product or service provide a result that is quantifiable and measurable? Second, can your product or service be easily replaced or exchanged? And third, do you offer additional products or services outside your core portfolio that you can provide in order to satisfy your client?
If you're not prepared to give a full-money back guarantee, you might want to consider an indirect guarantee — such as by adding or subtracting something instead, something different that appeals to your clients. Here's an example.
You're a sales training consultant offering seminars on sales productivity. You might want to offer a guarantee that promises an increase in your client's sales results by, say, 25% following your seminar. If your client's salesforce doesn't meet this goal within a specific period of time, you could offer an additional seminar (or one-on-one, phone consulting) free of charge.
You may be a marketing consultant compensated on a percentage of the client's sales (also called “contingency consulting”). It's really a guarantee in itself. But as a name for your guarantee, you may want to call it the “Risk Reverser.” You might give a bonus product or service free of charge as a way to thank your client for their business. In this case, don't just offer it as a standard part of your package. Market it in the form of a guarantee.
For instance, if you are a project management consultant in the computer field, you could add a bonus-training seminar to be conducted after your consulting contract is completed in order to guarantee that people maintain your work effectively after you're gone. As a result, you can call it the “After-Project Assurance” guarantee or the “Perfect Project Pledge.”
In essence, the idea is to guarantee that which is a generally assumed part of your business. If the prospect perceives that doing business with you has some added value, even if that which you offer is identical to your competition or included in a total package, you will be able to destroy your competition!
Often, the problem not only lies with what prospects perceive but also with what business owners perceive. They too wrongfully assume that parts of their products or services are not important, that marketing them is unnecessary, or as one doctor-client of mine once said, that “it all comes with the territory.” I'm sure you've heard the joke about what happens when you assume…
You get the picture.
By the way, that client of mine removes stitches from and follows up with his patients after surgery, and doesn't bill them for these seemingly ordinary services. In fact, they are common practice throughout the entire medical community. I asked him to put a name on it. He now calls it his postoperative “Patient Progress Program.” Remember, if you turn the ordinary into the extraordinary, you will turn ordinary marketing into extraordinary results.
Above all, you may still be offering some very special or unique product or service that your competition doesn't offer at all. If so, that's great! However, the same rule applies. Don't just leave it to a vague title or description, since it will still be perceived as similar at first glance or without knowing about it.
Put a name on it, even if it's not entirely new. If you're a management consultant offering seminars on how to get the most out of a particular software you've customized, call it the “Software Savvy in a Cinch Seminar.”
In fact, while having a unique product or service beats the previous two categories in creating top-of-mind awareness, it doesn't have to be entirely new. It can be copied and customized in such a way that it appears unique or new. According to Brian Tracy in his program “The Psychology of Selling,” many people have made fortunes by simply improving a current product by merely 10% yet packaged it in a different way. Remember the “pet rock”?
This goes back to the issue of perception. I once watched an Oprah Winfrey Show in which Oprah did an interesting piece on marketing. She conducted an apple juice taste test in malls across the United States.
While the program was focusing particularly on how companies can easily use false or misleading advertising, the results of the test revealed some interesting facts nonetheless about the way the mind works.
She had two bottles of apple juice. One was a plain, white plastic container with a label donning a picture of an apple. Very plain. Nothing fancy. The second bottle, however, was an intricately shaped glass bottle carrying a red label with the picture of a woman preparing apple juice in her kitchen.
When people were asked which apple juice tasted better, the majority said that the juice from the glass bottle tasted better. The surprise came when she announced to her audience that the juices from both bottles were exactly the same! (She actually showed footage of her staff filling the bottles.)
Not bad, isn't it? But it didn't stop there. When she asked her participants why they chose the juice from the red labeled bottle, their answers were astonishing. They said, “It tastes really good,” “it's much better than the other one,” “it's sweeter tasting,” or “it has more flavor.” When asked why, one said: “The picture of the lady preparing the juice in her kitchen indicates to me that more care and attention was given into making it, so it has to be better.”
It all boils down to the fact that perceived truth is indeed more powerful than truth itself. When it comes to your unique product or service, pay close attention to how you package it — the name and description you put on it.
This is how brand names have become generic in the minds of people. If it's perceived as unique or as the best through its name, then it is. However, it is difficult for me to give you specific examples here since the uniqueness of your product or service will determine your entire approach.
The key is to market your “original” product or service in such a way so that, if it is ever copied, your product or service's name remains firmly fixed in the marketplace and that your competitor's attempt to copy you will only but remind your prospects of you. If you can, add a guarantee or a tagline to your product or service, such as “Flat-Rate Fashion Facials. Flat Out Fantastic!”
Ultimately, make your product or service outstanding by making it stand out!