Setting your woodworking services apart from others means differentiating your company from the competition in the three main categories: promotion, product and performance. To differentiate your company you need to first have a unique selling proposition. Something in your company name or promotion, product or performance that will grab the prospects’ attention and make them call. This unique selling proposition is based on the special strengths of your company.

During my travels around the country, I have run across
hundreds of ways to make a great first impression on
your prospects in the showroom.

Light it like a home
Forget track lights. Use new LED lamps in glass cabinets
— they shout energy efficient and “Green” to prospects.
Add lighting under cabinets and over the sink. Plug in
lamps near furniture displays. Put LED strip lights over
hangers in closets and motion detectors to trigger lights
as customers move in.

Install a Door Ringer

Yes, you are busy in back, but don’t let customers languish
in the showroom. Add a doorbell. Make it loud enough to
hear over the saw. Consider putting in a video camera that
shows prospects arriving, so you’re ready to greet them.

Your unique strengths can be determined in several ways. Promotional uniqueness is about how you advertise your company over the others in the market. Do you have the best selection of doors, the largest showroom or the most vignettes? That becomes your unique strength over others.

When focusing on Products, look to your strengths in manufacturing. Does your company use only solid wood? Are you able to make a completely “Green” product? Is your designer or design team fantastic at ergonomic layouts?

Why Customers Return
When looking at differentiating your company based on Performance, one way to find the answer is to ask repeat customers why they come back to you. Asking repeat customers is easy, but at times they may not want to tell you the truth. It is not to their advantage to tell you that you underbid everyone else by 25%. And unless you want to make your unique slogan, “We leave a lot of money on the table,” it won’t help you create new, profitable business.

When asking past or repeat customers about your strengths, have a specific list of questions you need answered. Questions like: What did you like most about our work here? Was the job completed to our satisfaction? If you were to refer us on to a friend, what would you say about our company? These questions will get the answers to your strengths.

Performance strengths can also be found by comparing your company and its offering to the current competitors. Each company often advertises what it believes is its strength. Unfortunately, we all have a tendency to advertise the same things:

• Custom Cabinets
• Free Design Service
• Huge Selection
• blah, blah, blah.

If everyone advertises the same set of offerings then the offerings are standards not strengths.

If you really want to change the way prospects think about your product then the best method is empathy. Empathy is the true key to differentiation. Showing that you understand your customers’ pain is the best way to grab their attention away from your competitor.

If you can learn what your customers want, then you can gear your promotion, products or performance to their needs. Learning their needs also helps you define how to market to them.

For example, we all hate the dirt that remodeling creates, but I have yet to see any shop advertise a daily clean up service on their jobs. Some do it but it is rarely promoted. “The cleanest remodel in town” or “Free daily clean up” might be a nice addition to your advertising.

Consultant Rick Hill specializes in helping woodworking companies find new markets and more sales and is founder of WoodReps.Com, a national association of independent woodworking reps.

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