What is Differentiation

By Meredith Jung on February 05, 2024


Business experts and investors will often recommend you "differentiate" to win more deals.

But what does it mean to differentiate?


Definition

There are a lot of definitions out there. Here's mine:

Differentiation is how you solve a problem differently from competitors in a way that is better for your target market.

As you can see in that definition, there are several critical components to differentiation:

  • Your target market

  • The problem you solve

  • How you solve it

  • The competing alternatives

You need to know all of these to figure out your differentiation.

Once you've defined your differentiation, the distinct ways that you solve the problem differently are called your differentiators.

As an early stage startup you may have one or a half dozen. The number of differentiators doesn't really matter as long as they're valuable to your target market.

At the end of the day, though, differentiation is there to help your target market understand "How you solve their problem better than your competitors" so they can choose the right solution.

The definition of your differentiation should support that goal.


Example

Like Merriam-Webster, I too think a definition is more helpful with an example to illustrate it.

Let's look at Bluebeam* Revu, the PDF editor for architects, engineers and contractors (AEC professionals).

Revu is not the only PDF editor on the market. Far from it. However, it is a winning solution for AEC professionals because of how it solves the problem of communicating on a PDF differently.

AEC professionals are often trying to communicate visual information on their PDFs, such as how a design should be changed or issues they run across while constructing the design.

Most PDF editors are built for text-based communication.

They have primarily text-based markup options. If they have shapes, those shapes are typically basic. TFew have the ability to place images or design symbols on a page. Customization of markups is limited, if it's even available at all. And there's no way to save a customized markup except by changing the default settings for the markup.

Revu, on the other hand, is built for visual communication.

It has a variety of visual markups--including the ability to drop images directly on a page or copy design elements and use them as markups . The markups are highly customizable. They can be saved in symbol libraries like the one you see on the left of the screenshot below. And they all come with editable metadata that can be filtered and sorted to make navigating a visually crowded PDF easier (see bottom).

For your average office worker, these visual markup tools are unnecessary. They don't add value.

For an AEC professional, they are critical tools for quickly and accurately communicating change requests and issues on a PDF design.

How Revu solves the problem of communicating information on a PDF is different in a way that is better for their target market of Architects, Engineers and Contractors.

This differentiation has allowed Revu to become the dominant PDF editor for AEC professionals in North America and expand across the world.

*Disclosure: I worked at Bluebeam for 9 years.


So that's what differentiation is (at a very high level).

In the coming weeks I'll dive into why differentiation is important, the components of it, differentiators, and any questions you all have.

In the meantime, if you want to dig deeper, book a session! Enter the code ARTICLE for 20% off your first session.

*Note: The word unique did not show up in this article on purpose. You can provide meaningful value without being the only one to solve a problem. You just have to solve it in a different way from your competitors. Follow me on LinkedIn for more hot takes like this.


About the Author

Hi! I'm Meredith, a Product Marketer and Differentiation Whisperer.

Differentiation Whisperer? Yup.

I have a knack for identifying what makes companies and products better for their target market, and communicating that in a way that convinces prospects to buy.

Intrigued? Book a session today!

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