We've been talking about distinguishing you woodworking services from others.

The key is to differentiate your company from the competition in the three main categories of 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.

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 the other competitors.

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?

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? 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 customer’s 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.

Next time around we'll do a quick breakdown of ways that you can differentiate your customer woodworking business company from the competition.

Editor's note: Rick Hill is a consultant specializing in woodworking companies that need to find new markets and more sales. He is also an independent sales rep and founder of WoodReps.Com, a national association of independent reps in the woodworking industry. He can be reached through his website

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