“Networking – Differentiation.”
by Bob Salvas

 

In the old west, if you rode your horse for 20 miles to get to the next town only to discover that the local saloon did not
carry your favorite brand of whisky, what would you do? Chances are you would have been grateful that they had ANY
whisky at all! Back then, your options on what you could purchase was severely limited.
 

The world we live in today is not at all like the old west. It’s estimated that a new product (or version of a product) is
introduced in the United States every 40 seconds. Today we live with a preponderance of choice. Too many products
and most of them look alike. What happens in that scenario is that we end up buying solely on price.
 

For a business who is selling something, this is generally not good news. Reducing prices reduces our profit and the
people who buy from us on price are the LEAST loyal buyers you will find. If someone else undercuts your price, they are
very likely to move their business to them.
 

The cure to this problem is differentiation- positioning your products or services to show how you are different from
your competitors. There are many ways to differentiate a business, but many of them fall into three basic categories:
 

     1. What you sell
     2. Who you sell it to
     3. How you deliver the goods
 

David Blaise, a promotional products sales expert (www.topsecrets.com)gives several examples of ways you might
consider doing this in his material on selling promotional products. Here are some ideas that were inspired by his
examples:
 

What you sell- You can become a product specialist. If, for example, most of what you do is screen printing, then you
will likely be knowledgeable about that service. In your conversations at networking events, you could say “I specialize
in screen printing on apparel.”
 

Who you sell it to- You can become an expert for promotional products for a specific industry or business niche. You
can further define who you sell to based on geography. In your conversations at networking events, you could say “I sell
branded products to accountants and CPAs in the state of Rhode Island.”
 

How you deliver the goods- This is often about the customer experience when they get your products/services. One
idea is to offer specific packages for business programs like Employee Recognition or Safety Programs or Customer
Loyalty. In your conversations at networking events, you could say “I help those who coordinate and provide gifts for
Employee Recognition Programs at their place of business.”
 

Unfortunately, what is more common for the person answering the networking question “What do you do?” is that they
describe what they do in the broadest of terms- because they don’t know what the person talking to them might be able
to use. This is a completely wrong approach. It goes back to the ‘doing everything for everybody’ idea that means you
do ‘nothing for nobody’. It is simply too broad, and people are not likely to remember you.
 

If on the other hand, you are specific and differentiate yourself, people will likely be curious and drawn in to that
conversation. They may ask you more questions and while they might not have an immediate need (or know someone
who has an immediate need), they are more likely to remember you. And in networking that is a key to success. The
real return on investment in networking does not happen at the networking event, it happens after the event has passed.