You’re walking down Main Street in Portland, Maine.
All around you are fast food outlets effectively screaming, “Come and eat here!”
Then you notice a sandwich bar that you’ve never seen before. It’s packed with people.
On the window you see a big sign:
We’re Passionate About Food
Elsewhere on the window, you see a huge burgundy diamond shape. And inside the diamond you read:
At Pret A Manger we are passionate about food, the pleasure it brings, and the importance it plays in all our lives.
After years of practice and research, we have developed a range of sandwiches, salads, cakes, and puddings which are tasty, healthy, homemade, value for money, and served quickly.
The vast majority of our recipes are unique to Pret A Manger and are freshly prepared each morning in our shops. We use only free-range eggs and fresh herbs, and we bake our own pastries and bread. We insist on quality you can trust.
When you go inside and buy (you’d almost have to after that build up!), you take your sandwich away in a bag that has exactly the same message on the outside but is this time preceded with these words:
Sinclair Beecham and I opened our first Pret A Manger in 1986. We have never swerved from our aim of providing the best for our customers. Our food may be “fast”, but the selection of ingredients and quality of preparation is anything but.
And then the closing line on the bag is this:
If you would like to speak to me or one of my colleagues regarding anything to do with Pret A Manger, please feel free to call on 0171-827 6300. Thank you. Julian Metcalfe.
What the Pret A Manger owners have done is taken something essentially ordinary and made it unique.
What they’ve done is to develop, articulate, and focus on what we call their Unique Core Differentiators (or UCD for short).
Let’s delve deeper.
Marketing people frequently say it’s important to have what is called a “Unique Selling Proposition” (USP). A USP is often touted as the distinguishing advantage you hold out in all your marketing, advertising, and sales efforts.
Some people started to move what they saw as “beyond” USP’s. “You must,” they said, “create an EVP.” (EVP stands for Extra Value Proposition.) The point was made that people buy value so they’ll buy from you (the theory goes) if they see more value in what you’re offering.
We’ll put it in a somewhat more all-embracing way (and, we hope, in a way that’s easier to grasp).
Follow this logical sequence:
§ People buy differences they perceive.
§ Therefore, we must differentiate (or at least give the perception that we’re different).
§ That difference must be at our very core of the company and flow into everything we do.
§ That then gives us a constant uniqueness.
Hence — Unique Core Differentiators (UCD’s).
To us, the most important word there is “core”. When you’ve defined what the differentiators are (note — differentiatorS — you can have more than one), they have to be at the very center of your company — at the very “core” of your being, so to speak.
Pret A Manger illustrates the point brilliantly.
We can’t emphasize this aspect of UCD’s enough. They provide a total focus for you. But it’s not just a focus that’s important for you — it’s a focus that’s important for all the clients you serve.
We can help you find your UCD’s through asking questions in one of our Planning Sessions. But more about that later. For now, let’s get back to the first principles of UCD’s.
To do that, let’s focus on an example for a moment. Let’s say it’s a Real Estate company. And let’s say they focus on “up scale” homes. Then their point of difference might be something as simple as they only sell “up scale” properties. Then everything about them must reek of that — the way they dress, the way their office is laid out, the way their advertisements are designed.
They must not fall into the trap of being everything to everybody. When they do, they’ll lose their UCD. And they’ll lose business because of that loss.
Or, let’s say the business is a discount warehouse. Then everything about what they do needs to reek of that — a rough warehouse-type atmosphere, lots of activity, and so on are the keys.
Your UCD is that “special-ness” about your product or service (or about your firm as a whole) which compels people to buy from you instead of from your competitors. As we’ve said, it must be at the core of your business. It must be a fundamental focal point. And it must be articulated at very opportunity.
It could be that dealing with you is more fun than dealing with any one else. If that’s the case, it should be articulated everywhere.
Consider, for example, the case of Greenlane Plumbing and Hardware. They observed that when their customers came to see them, they would leave to go “up the road” to get some lunch.
The owners, Michael Currie and David Scott, wondered what would happen if they installed their own hot dog machine. The results? A 40% increase in their business from this strategy alone. (Perhaps they should now be called “The Hot Dog Plumbing and Hardware Supply Company.” This would truly be articulating their UCD as an integral part of all of their marketing!)
Be careful, though. A UCD is much more than a slogan. However, if you can get it into a slogan, you will have a powerful marketing weapon. A classic case of this is Federal Express. Their UCD said it all — Absolutely Positively Overnight!
It’s here where you see the powerful possibilities of a UCD. It articulates exactly what the customer wants AND, just as importantly, it gives a laser-like focus to everyone on the team.
The reality is that most companies (in fact, most people in business generally) have never articulated or even thought about their UCD at all. They expect people to buy from them simply because they’re in the marketplace.
They simply say, “Buy from us.” But they don’t give the potential customer a clear and compelling reason why they should buy from them. When you find it, you have a far greater chance of building a much better business.
But here’s a critically important point — the UCD does not (in fact) have to be unique.
Before you say, “Now you’ve totally lost me”, consider this; it’s critical to understand. You may not have anything that is totally unique. But if you are the first one to articulate a difference, (even though others do the same), you’ll stand out in the marketplace as if you are unique, simply because you’ve been the first to articulate it.
Is Pret A Manger the only company in the world that is passionate about food, that uses free-range eggs, fresh ingredients, and so on? Of course not. But they were the first to articulate it and make it part of their very core.
In some cases, you may already have a strong UCD, but don’t know it. When we help you find it (by asking questions), you’re going to be amazed at the difference. You’ll have a focus you’ve never had before.
The reality is this: when you develop UCD’s that are meaningful to your prospects and customers,and then articulate it and express it in everything you do, your business will change forever. It can put you head and shoulders above the competition forever.
Bear in mind again that a UCD is not just a “clever” slogan. For instance, dentist Paddi Lund describes the totality of his UCD in a brilliant twelve-page booklet.
The first line in that booklet gives the real essence of Paddi’s uniqueness — “Our aim is to make you to enjoy coming to see us.”
His UCD is also brilliantly expressed in his first book. It’s called Building the Happiness-Centered Business. Notice the word “centered.” It confirms again what we’re saying about “core.” The UCD must pervade the entire core of the business.
For example, if providing great service is part of your UCD, you cannot simply give lip service to service. It’s got to invade the core. Once it invades the core (like a positive virus), it flows through into everything that you do. Paddi describes it as a “ripple in the pond” effect. He’s absolutely right.
You see it at every turn in his business. It flows through everything he does. It flows to the extent that he has created what can only be described as a “dental restaurant.”
When you go in, you are met by Michelle, called a “Director of Wonderful”, who hands you a menu. The practice is built around the kitchen. For example, the extractor fans in the kitchen are arranged to blow the baking smells over the dental chairs!
That’s called “making it core.”
It creates a perceived difference that reflects your UCD. It’s a way of articulating it constantly.
Consider what happens when you have an appointment in a “typical” professional office. Eventually, someone will ask you if you’d like a tea or coffee.
But imagine walking into accountant Martin Pollin’s office. You’re met at reception. You sit in the foyer. And then Martin’s “Director of First Impressions” (we’ll call her Sally) presents you with a menu. “What can I get you from our menu, Mr. Dunn?”
I was stunned when it happened. “That’s never happened to me anywhere in the world before, Sally.” The young lady looked me straight in the eye and said with a knowing smile, “Precisely!”
And that is precisely the point.
But it doesn’t and can’t stop there. If it does, you’ve found something “cute” — you haven’t found a UCD. Remember that a UCD invades the entire core of the business.
Let’s continue with the discussion of not necessarily being unique, but being the first to effectively articulate it.
For example, a builder we know advertised that he would pay $100 for every day he went over the targeted completion date. Interestingly, that’s what you have to do to get a builders’ license in that particular State of Australia. Even though every one else had to do it, he was the first one to articulate it. By doing this, he “pre-empted” the competition and added to his UCD.
A classic example of this type of “pre-emptive advertising” is the Schlitz Beer story.
In the 1920’s, Claude Hopkins, known today as the father of modern advertising, was called in to help boost Schlitz Beer’s sales. Upon his recommendation, Schlitz built an advertising campaign based on the theme of how their beer was made.
They educated people about the pure artesian well water they used, about all the steps of filtration, the quality control, etc. The fact is, all beer was made the same way, but again, by being the first to tell the story, or articulate the process, they “owned” it. Schlitz pre-empted the competition and strengthened its UCD.
Now that we know what it is, the key question is how do we find it for ourselves?
We implied before that the problem is that business owners have never sat down and said, “What distinguishes my company from my competitors? Am I more expensive or less expensive? Do I provide more service, a better value, a better guarantee, give two when you buy three, or three when you buy two?”
We can help you begin to articulate your UCD’s through one of our intensive Planning Sessions. Our clients have called our Planning Sessions the best time ever spent on their business.
However, before we end this article, it’s important again to make the point about “core”.
James Collins in his 1995 book called Built to Last makes the point strongly. In the book, he traces the differences between directly competitive companies, and points out that some of them outlast, outperform (by an average factor of 19 times!), and outrun the competitor.
These he calls the “Built to Last” companies. He points out that the key differentiator is that these companies have a “central core” that remains and is the basis upon which all business decisions are made. This, he says, is what differentiates them from the others.
Whenever these companies were faced with a judgement — should we do this or that – they would go back to the core to find the answer.
It’s something that allows you to build consistency of purpose and focus.
You must implement a UCD even though this is very often difficult for many businesses. A UCD is NOT a logo, although it’s incredibly powerful if you can make it part of your logo. Federal Express’s Absolutely Positively Overnight is a great example of a UCD brilliantly and succinctly expressed.
But don’t concern yourself with brevity. Pret a Manger shows it well. “Passionate about food” is the shorthand version. The words on the bag take it further. And a visit to their stores completes the picture.
A UCD has the power to focus you and your team in ways you’ve never dreamed of.
Whatever it is for you — get it.
Call us and we can help you transform your business and your life!