The Key to Differentiation for Manufacturing


    In this episode, we talk about the key to differentiation as you learn how manufacturers can achieve differentiation. Ideas, suggestions and examples abound in this podcast episode of Manufacturing Marketing Matters.

    Guest: Andrea Olson, Founder & CEO Prag’madik, Author of No Disruptions - The New Future for Mid-Market Manufacturing


    • "Marketing is about communicating, positioning and perception" [3:00]
    • When you ask your customers about how they perceive your differentiation or position, be sure to maintain objectivity, sometimes a 3rd party is best.[5:00]
    • You can get differentiation on features and benefits if you have a huge, unlimited marketing budget, but it can be a bit disingenuous. [7:20]
    • Perceptions are built over time. Andrea shares an interesting and relevant case study about Dominos Pizza. [10:20]
    • Differentiation is the responsibility of all leaders and all functions within the organization. [16:10]
    • If you want to be better at differentiation, first take a look at the current customer experience. [18:20]
    • You can achieve a differentiated position with a comprehensive marketing program that offers helpful, useful content. [20:30]

    Interview Questions:

    Question 1 –  First, let’s level set. What does ‘differentiation’ look like? In other words, how does a company know it has differentiation?

    Question 2 –  In the manufacturing world, most companies try to differentiate on features. Could be specific features or broader features like quality or delivery.

    Is this differentiation strategy working? Is it achievable and sustainable in our globalized market places.

    Question 3 –  Let’s talk about the tough ones, the commodities; manufacturers of things like ball bearings, chemicals, industrial gas (nitrogen), raw steel or lumber.  The perception is usually that they are all the same. When that is the perception, the buyers go to lowest price.

    How can a commodity manufacturer achieve a differentiated position and perception in their marketplace?  Or is it really only possible by shaving to razor thin margins?

    Question 4 – Internally, who are the players who define and achieve differentiation in the marketplace? 

    Challenge Question:

    This week our challenge question comes from a VP Marketing in the Pittsburgh area, a manufacturing company that produces welding equipment. Here it is “We sell welding equipment to end users all over the country. Over the past couple of years, our profit margin has been eroding despite our efforts to differentiate the product line. To the point of your book, we do pitch the products heavily and have not shared any expertise. What would you suggest for creating differentiation with a common product like welding equipment.”

    • Be clear about what you are offering. Look at associated options that are around the product not about the product. Like delivery or training.
    • Understand your target audience, their pain points, their perception, areas where they struggle and you can help.


    • Go out and do some deep dive customer interviews or surveys.
    • Do a competitive analysis from a differentiation perspective.

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