Marketing, like so many things in life, is all about differentiation.  Why should I buy your product rather than somebody else’s?  Why should your product be used at all or even be on the market?  Why should I pay more for your product?  Why should we add your product to our formulary?  It really is all about how you can show the world your points of differentiation and then demonstrate what those differences are worth, right?

The key is in today’s world, everyone is doing and saying the same thing.  Our drug is effective.  It is safer.  We have managed care coverage for so many million lives.  We have a co-pay card to offset patient costs.  We have samples.  Our clinical research involves so many thousand lives and we have so many patient years of experience.  You see, it all kind of sounds the same and every product has just about all the same stuff.  The value is not popping out.  It is not obvious.  For physicians, it is often not worth the effort of step edits and prior authorization work.  For payers, it is not worth changing the formulary or paying a little extra.

Take a look at this very interesting piece on stacking.  It points out that to really differentiate your product or yourself, you may need a combination of differentiators, not just one.  This, plus this, plus this and this makes us different and worth the price you pay.  A product may need to be more effective and easier to use and yes maybe even less expensive, before it is truly differentiated in a customer’s mind.  Take some time and really examine your product and try to develop a small stack of things that together truly differentiate your product from the competition.  Be realistic and understand your competition is doing the same thing.

Take this thinking just a step further and see how it plays out in your career.  You may need to stack a number of differentiating points together to get the job you want or the promotion you think you deserve.  Again, realistically look at everyone else who is going for the same job or the same promotion and examine how you can stack up a select few items to truly differentiate yourself.  This might be a little tougher than you think as most of the competition is doing exactly what you are doing.  Everyone went to a good school and got good grades.  Everyone has some experience in different functional areas and everyone claims to have won all kinds of awards and contests.

When trying to differentiate either yourself or your product, out of the box creativity is clearly needed.  For now, I will leave the product differentiation up to you and will give you a few ideas about your career.  What type work do you do outside your job?  Are you a master gardener?  A beer brewer?  A leader at a nonprofit in town?  Have you taken kids on volunteer outreach trips?  Have you worked on a political campaign?  Have you spent time with homeless folks to understand how they get healthcare?  Have you run a small business to truly understand profit and loss?  The list could go on and on.  Keep in mind that these are items that must be stacked on top of all the obvious points of differentiation and not substitute for the obvious.

As the summer season draws to an end, it might be worth taking some time to think about differentiation and all its aspects.  If you are really serious, and are willing to take the risk, ask a friend or a colleague to help you out!

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