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When working with my SME clients on their marketing direction, I sometimes see them get stuck on how they are creating differentiation from their competitors.

What’s scarier is that they usually fall back to motherhood statements of quality, price, speed, customer service and “it’s new”. I’m not saying that these are not good differentiators, but their advantage is fleeting, if not temporary. How do I help them through this?

I’ve recently discovered a framework by Bain and Co, where they describe 30 Elements of Value which thriving businesses deliver upon. The outline is based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, and they group the various elements into the different layers of Functional, Emotional, Life Changing and at the apex, Social Impact. The elements describe what customers want from that product or service.

While Bain and Co focuses and consults on larger corporations, their framework gives a lot for smaller businesses to think about.

In my exposure to BNI members and various startup and entrepreneurial networks, many deliver to a good degree, on 2 elements. I’ve also noticed where if they only have 1 element covered, they wouldn’t launch that business endeavour or new product/service range yet.

When businesses define their 3rd element and deliver on it, they have effectively create differentiation from their competitors. Bain and Co observes when companies deliver on their 4th element, especially in a higher layer on the framework, they command customer loyalty and retention. And these are playing at the regional or global level.

I’ll describe more on what I’ve observed with this framework in later blogs.