Say what you will about the Trump Administration, but they’re positively obsessed with creating more jobs, lowering corporate tax rates and making it easier than ever for first-time entrepreneurs to take the big plunge.

Ah, but sweetened incentives are a double-edged sword: While they’ll lower the bar for you to live La Vida Loco, they’ll also attract more competitors than die-hard DeadHeads to a hastily-announced concert.

And, while the various Marks (and other legendary entrepreneurs) invented truly disruptive products and services, they also knew that differentiation was critical to disruption.

So, in addition to creating awareness and credibility, they stayed laser-focused on ramming home their key differentiators(s).

You should do the same (unless you plan to be yet another commodity in a sea of commodities).

Happily, I have a tried and true positioning formula for you to follow that, I guarantee, will force you to figure out what separates your new offering to everyone else’s.

Take a look at the following questions/suggestions and answer them honestly. They’ll unearth your differentiator which, if you possess even a morsel of the respective Mark’s moxie, you can use to create awareness, establish credibility and, most importantly, convince customers to spend their money with you.

So, let’s get going. Hand out copies of this questionnaire to your co-founders, investors and, if you’re fortunate enough to have already landed a few paying customers, ask for their unvarnished feedback as well. Here goes:

1.) Why does your organization exist? What does it do better, or differently, than the scores of companies already serving your target audience? If “low-cost provider” is your answer, I’d think long and hard about moving forward. What entrepreneur wants to be known as being the cheapest among the cheap?

2.) Define EXACTLY how you’re disrupting the status quo. Clayton Christiansen’s consulting organization, Integral, nailed this by advising organizations of all types to “Disrupt their business models before someone else did it to them.” Can you think of a better differentiator or call to action?

3.) Establish your industry credentials at the get-go. I’m happy to consider outsourcing my global logistics to your start-up IF you’re offering a unique model based upon knowing the industry like the back of your hand. If not, I’ll stick with the devil I know and trust.

4.) Unless you’re a NextGen Zappos or Southwest, don’t try to convince me your employees are your point of differentiation. I’d be worth more than Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and the Combover Kid combined if I had a dollar for every client who told me their key differentiator was their people. If that’s the best you can do, stick with your day job.

5.) Conduct your due diligence. Don’t bother spending time and money conducting a branding and positioning audit only to settle on a differentiator that someone already owns. Note: We were once hired by a Sapient, Razorfish wanna-be that told us to skip the differentiation research entirely. Their goal was to convince the pre-Dotcom Bubble Burst Street that they should be valued in exactly the same way as their predecessors and cash-in with a major IPO.

Guess what? The bubble burst and they, and their me-too business model, disappeared into the ether (along with the millions of dollars the VCs who’d been duped into believing the website builder’s me-too positioning would pay-off handsomely).

There are many other tricks to the differentiation trade, but don’t fall victim to the belief that launching a mere variation on a theme will enrich you, your investors or make one iota of difference in TrumpLand. It won’t.

Differentiate if you really are disrupting.


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