Achieving Competitive Differentiation

Hi, Everyone!

There’s no doubt about it! When it comes to the world of speaking, training, coaching and consulting, it’s a highly competitive buyer’s market. Industry-wide, there are literally tens of thousands of professionals from which to choose!

How competitive is it? Let’s say you are a client looking for a keynote speaker for your company’s annual leadership conference. The National Speakers Association website lists 739 members offering keynote programs on the subject of leadership alone. Even at the elite level, the Washington Speakers Bureau – one of the most prestigious, exclusive and respected bureaus in the world – lists 116 leadership experts. That’s a lot of speakers from which to choose!

The reality for coaches is even more severe. If you’re looking for a personal coach, lists more than 2,200 – and that represents a mere fraction of the more than 30,000 member coaches of

Sure, all human development professionals have their own spin, style and areas of expertise – and can be hired at fees all across the board. But there’s obviously a LOT of people competing for the chance to speak, train, coach or consult – and, in large part, the differences between them are not as great as they would like to imagine.

In fact, in our recent study of the human development industry, 100% of respondents said that differentiating themselves from their competitors was very important to the success of their type of business. Yet 61% of the respondents said that competitive differentiation was NOT a significant problem for them – and another 14% rated the problem as mild.

While the majority of respondents don’t THINK they have a problem, the study also showed that only 18% were paying any meaningful amount of attention to keeping competitive differentiation from becoming an issue in the growth of their businesses.

The truth is that who gets hired and who doesn’t is often a matter of competitive differentiation – and businesses that wish to grow are constantly watching what their competition is doing and revising themselves accordingly. Those that stop watching and stop revising ensure a loss of their competitive advantages and, ultimately, the demise of their businesses.

Achieving competitive differentiation is important because it offers you three things: 1) it reduces the pool of competitors to which a prospect can compare you, putting you into a more exclusive category; 2) it increases your perceived value in the marketplace, allowing you to command higher fees with less resistance; and 3) it affords you greater notoriety and the chance for increased exposure, often at little or no cost to you.

But there is a BIG difference between just being different for the sake of being different and holding true competitive differentiation among your peers. For maximum impact, the differences between you and your competition must be more than cosmetic. They must be differences that your clients actually VALUE.

It only matters if you are different in ways that matter to your clients.

The secret to achieving true competitive differentiation is understanding your clients. What do they have in common? What dreams do they share? What problems do they face? What do they need? How do they prefer to work with professionals like you?

Once you know more about the clients you are trying to attract, impress and hold on to, work to improve your positioning in one or more of the following ways:

Market Differentiation — Develop a reputation as a specialist in their particular industry.

Program Differentiation — Offer uncommon subjects that are vital to your clients, or more common subjects that have been customized specifically for their industry.

Service Differentiation — Offer uncommon services that are vital to your customers, or more common services that have been customized specifically for their industry.

Style Differentiation — Deliver your programs and services in a distinctive manner that appeals to the industry you’ve chosen to target.

Image Differentiation — Establish a unique brand that is both attractive and memorable for your clients to keep you in a top-of-mind position.

The more ways you find to distinguish yourself from your competitors, the more clients you will secure and the stronger those relationships will become. Focus on what your clients WANT you to be – and you will become the provider they want most.



5 Responses to Achieving Competitive Differentiation

  1. Bryan Dilts says:

    Wow, this one hurts.

    I got several emails last week from coaches offering to help me differentiate myself for the new year. Let’s see. These coaches sends 10,000 emails to coaches to train them to be different. Do they all end up the same?

    I’m using your Day Of Learning to differentiate myself. It is proving to be effective. It gives me an excuse to send an email each month and they are responding well.

  2. Susan says:

    Hi T – Excellent and timely topic. I am in the process of launching my coaching/consulting business and was just working on my marketing materials prior to reading this. Thanks!

  3. I don’t hear much about the competition for coaches – so this is a refreshing clarification. And we’re not only competing with other coaches but with therapists and consultants and a host of other human development profs.

    I like your list of ways to differentiate myself – it moves me downgrid and maybe even outgrid to have a structure.

    Thank you!

  4. Hi T.,

    Your posting is right on the mark. The most important service differentiator for my business is using the ChangeGrid itselt! It is very powerful to highlight how it is distinct from the litany of psychometric tools. Whenever I’ve shown it to others, they are always blown away and then inquire as to how it can help them in their businesses, jobs, and careers.

  5. G Sairamesh says:

    Very incisive writing T.

    I am particularly experiencing the drive. Find myself doing too many things right now to achieve the differentiation amongst Human Development Professionals in this part of the world.

    I have been working on this differentiation for the past 3 years continuously now to create a sustainable competitive advantage amongst the trainers, consultants and coaches.

    Rgds – Sai

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