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Guest Article

Unique Innovative Distinction: The Key to Supercharging Your Business Growth


John J. Woods

This is THE BIG SECRET of profit optimization...

If you want a line of customers at your door - give them a better reason to be there than at your competitor's door.

The "better reason to be there" is your Unique Innovative Distinction (UID). Often, you can create this distinction on a shoestring! It does not have to be an expensive technological breakthrough. It can be a simple, inexpensive differentiation.

Question--what happened to Polaroid? AOL? Blockbuster? Commodore Computers? Sharper Image? MySpace? Eastman Kodak? Sears? Borders Books? Sun Microsystems? Montgomery Ward?

These companies were bubbling with success and innovation. Now, they are gone, or fading fast.


Largely because they did not have a system in place to require that innovation be an integral core of their business. A system is the solution (or at least, a major first step).


• The best marketing in the world will not make up for a failure to innovate. • How will your Company stand out in a (competitive) crowd?

You must innovate or die. It is not just for tech companies. It is for every company. Marketing and innovation must go hand-in-hand.

"Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower." --Steve Jobs

The Classic Example of a Great Unique Innovative Distinction (UID)

Tom Monaghan's fledgling pizza business was a financial flop until he came across an innovation that ultimately made him a multimillionaire. Everyone knows his unique innovative distinction: "Fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed." It was a brilliant combination of two highly desired customer benefits: 1) a highly specific, concrete, no-ambiguity distinction - "30 minutes or less" (not "fast," not "quick," not "rushed to your door"-a specific delivery time; and 2) a guarantee. That unique distinction took Tom from a failing business to one that quickly dominated his local area, then his state, country and the world!

I heard Tom speak at an Inc. Magazine conference some years back. He mentioned that he discovered this distinction because he talked to his customers and asked lots of questions. It because clear very quickly that speed was the superior benefit and advantage that many people wanted.

He began step 1: find a specific set of systems that will produce and deliver a pizza as quickly as possible. He experimented with various methods of preparing and delivering. He tested various ingredient selections, pre-preparation methods, in-store operating systems and logistics, cooking methods, delivery strategies, geographic limitation, etc. until he found the right combination. From ordering phone call to delivery driver knocking on the customer's door was 24 to 28 minutes.

Then step 2: articulate the customer benefit in terms that clearly demonstrate the superior advantage and beneficial result. The perfect, elegantly, simple answer was: "Fresh, hot pizza delivered in 30 minutes or less, guaranteed." Tom mentioned that, at the time, there were a lot of his competitors who would advertise things like: "Great tasting pizza, delivered fast." Domino's superior articulation fueled the growth of an empire.

I can only assume that the empire today continues to innovate systemically. Now, it is not so much product innovations as it is marketing and operational innovations.

Innovation Can Be Relatively Minor Changes That Impact Your Clients Positively

Innovation is anything and everything that you do that separates you from your competitors in ways that your client likes and values. It does not have to be an expensive technological breakthrough. It is any distinction that brings to your clients greater value, advantage and/or benefit that they desire. Find a way to delight and enthuse your customers.

For example, you offer training classes for your products, your competitor does not. Your competitor offers a 30-day store credit for returns, you offer a 70-day-no-questions-asked-cash refund if not satisfied. Your competitor offers an email-only help option, you offer 24/7 friendly, helpful, technical support. You offer customers an entertaining and fun in-store experience -- contests, drawings, product demos, sample give-aways, product comparisons, large action-posters, large screen TVs with action/adventurous videos, new-just-arrived-product demonstrations and fun/educational events that are entertaining to your retail customers, while your competition offers only a salesperson who says: "May I help you?" You offer a buyer loyalty program that draws your customers back and is perceived as a high-value reward while your competitor has none.

You can innovate your customer generation process. A great way is to help prospects "try you out" before they must make a commitment. The customer gets to test your quality with no risk to themselves. Here are two examples:

Example 1. Your carpet cleaning company began sending out certificates good for cleaning two rooms of carpeting for no charge - zero - no gimmicks, no strings whatsoever. Your competition is sure you are crazy and will go broke within six months. In reality, you quintuple your business as a result. This is because 86% of the freebies result in cleaning the remainder of the house (average six rooms). Another 5% of the freebies call you back to do their entire house within one year. Of this new customer base, the average new customer remains a customer for 5.5 years (based on historical trends). Because you "know your numbers," you pay a relatively small amount to acquire a large lifetime customer value. Your competition is still sure you are crazy and will go broke offering this promotion.

Example 2. Your large mini-warehouse added $1 to $1.5 million dollars of revenue annually by giving customers the first three months free for signing a 15-month program. If the customer was dissatisfied at that time, he could move out and received a 100% refund. You also offered to provide the moving van and the equipment free of charge and gave the customer the locks, too, as a gift. Because you "know your numbers" and you have tested this promotion, you know that very few customers leave after three months and the three-months-free promotion brings in a huge amount of new business. Your competitors are confused.

Reverse the Risk. Some companies create powerful UIDs by using risk reversal. This is a process of taking all (or most) of the risk off the customer in the buying transaction. Give a guarantee that is better, or longer, or broader than your competitors provide. Often, if your product or service is a good one, providing an expanded guarantee can result in very little additional cost. When you reduce the risk to the customer, this will often encourage those who would otherwise put-off making a buying decision decide, instead, to say yes to your offer. Bottom line is that you get a lot more customers and often incur very little cost for the guarantee.

How to Find Your Unique Innovate Distinction (UID)

Find the chinks in the armor of your competition. Communicate with your clients and figure out what they really want and what your competition is unwilling, or unable, to provide. Position yourself where the competition isn't. Find markets and clients who value service over price. If you are a "small fry" with large competitors, find a market that is too small for your larger competitors to serve. Give customers what they value and communicate this unique innovative position to the market.

I work with clients to help them identify and articulate their Unique Innovate Distinction (UID). The first steps that I use are detailed below. If you want to beat up your competition, you must distinguish your company from your competition in ways that are important and impactful to your clients. It is also the way you stop competing on price. Think of any successful company that you know firsthand, one that you really enjoy engaging in business. I can guarantee that they can answer the questions below effectively.

How do YOU answer these 3 fundamental UID questions:

1. What is unique about your Company and separates you from your competition, in a way that advantages your customer?

The answer is your UID. It is the factual, specific, precise, concrete distinction you have over your competitor. It is not a slogan. It is not a generalization like: "great service," "low cost," "we care about quality," "dependable," "we care about the customer," "family owned," "top of the line," etc.

What will make your customer say "Wow--this is what I have been looking for!"? Try answering these questions-

a. Consider the many possible answers to complete these blanks:

• Nearly all of our competitors do this: _______________
• What we do is this: ____________________________

b. Ask these questions of your current customers and prospects:

• What is frustrating, irritating, or uncomfortable about dealing with our industry, with our competitors, and with our company?
• What are the two most important things we could do in order to improve your buying experience from us?

2. Why should I do business with your Company versus all of your other competitors, (including the option of doing nothing)?

This question deals with how you communicate your UID. In step 1 you identified and developed a specific, concrete distinction. In step 2, you must now craft a well-articulated message that communicates this distinction. The message should be clear about the benefit to the client that the distinction will provide.

Business philosopher, Jim Rohn, probably summed it up best. He says:

"To communicate powerfully, first you've got to have something good to say; then say it well; and finally, say it often."

3. What process do you have, as your Company's standard procedures, to insure a constant stream of innovations that benefit your customer? Your UID is evolving; it must continue to grow. Once your UID is identified and articulated, now you must set up a specific process inside your business to make certain that innovation continues to be a focus of the organization.

One big problem. Once you find a great answer to the UID questions and you are generating a lot more business, all of your attentive competitors will try to copy your IUD. So, you have to be one step ahead of them all the time.

Your UID Is Not Just A Slogan

Your UID must be a position based on a sustainable differentiation. You must do what you promised, every time. If your UID is "next day delivery," you have to provide that EVERY time. Customers do not care that your truck broke down or that you almost got it there the next day. UIDs are about results. The result is what the customer wants - the one you promised - which was the important reason the customer selected you over your competitor.

What If There Is No Real Difference Between You And Your Competitor?

Two competitors who are exactly the same in how they service their customers may have dramatically different sales results because of how they communicate their UID. One competitor may utilize tired, over-used words like, "We give great service." You, on the other hand, position yourself with a specific and convincing UID: "We guarantee you a 2-day turnaround on your repair. If we don't make our deadline, we will pay you $50 per day for each day we are late." If a 2-day turnaround is important to you, which competitor would you choose?


If you want to supercharge your profits, you must innovate continuously. That innovation should be directed at distinctions that separate you from your competition in ways that your clients like and value. The distinction must be clear, concise, specific, tangible and fact-based. It can be simple and inexpensive. You must communicate the distinction in a way that makes the customer-benefit clear and vivid to your clients. You need to establish a specific system in the organization to insure that innovation is non-stop.

What will make your customer say: "Wow--this is what I have been looking for!"? Set up a system in your company that compels you and your staff to always focus on an evolving Unique Innovative Distinction to create a "Wow Factor." You will love your profit levels and love how much fun it is to serve your clients.


John J Woods CPA (Jack) has one key business focus--teaching business owners how to create a business powerhouse using 4 special programs designed to super-charge growth and profits. Get access to his FREE "HOW-TO" Blog at

Article Copyright © 2014 John J. Woods All Rights Reserved

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