Differentiation: The way to go
FULL DISCLOSURE - Fidel Abalos (The Freeman) - August 15, 2020 - 12:00am

For the first time in five months, the disruptions caused by the coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) is set aside by the media for other important news. Supposedly, we are to be happy about it. Remember, most netizens even tried to encourage everyone to post anything positive in their social media accounts just so we may be able to take a brief hiatus from our anxieties.

Sadly, however, while it dampened the virus’ news a bit, frustrations heightened. This is so as allegations of blatant corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation surfaced.  Purportedly, in the form of disbursements to hospitals for COVID-19 patients who never existed (or ghost COVID-19 patients).

Stressful and frustrating these developments maybe, we’d rather set aside them both for the time being. Let’s take a look at something different, differentiation.

Whether we call it differentiation strategy or product differentiation, it really doesn’t matter. What matters most is how we understand it in this time when disruptions, good and bad, are prevalent. In a time when most businesses, just to survive, are flooding the market with almost similar products and services.

So what is differentiation strategy? This is a methodology or an approach that a business takes to develop a distinctive product or service that customers will find superior or better than or in another way unique from products or services that are currently offered by existing suppliers.  The ultimate objective is for a business to distinguish itself from the competition.

Supposedly, if the product or service is really better, not only that it shall get a share of the market, it will also have the opportunity to peg a price that’s higher than usual. The key attribute should be that the product or service addresses the benefits of those that are currently patronized by the customers and at the same time offer something new.

However, we must keep in mind that most startups or innovators, in their efforts to develop unique and distinctive products, spend time and enormous amounts on research and development. Therefore, the product’s perceived value and the price will come into play. Simply put, if we wish to be different, we must make sure that the innovative features shall attract customers. Good enough that they shall shift even at a higher price.

For the techies, a typical example of this is Airtable. In highlighting Airtable’s success story, let us all remember Google Sheets. Google Sheets is a spreadsheet program, which also includes Google Docs. Google Docs “differentiating feature was cloud collaboration.”  It brought “Microsoft Word online and made versioning and online collaboration just work.” Good enough, right?

However, according to AngelList Weekly, there is now a surge of startups replacing Google Docs and Google Sheets. Enthusiastically, they are all on its way to becoming desirables.  Focusing on workflows by using templates, one of them is in fact already there, Airtable.

According to AngelList Weekly, Airtable is a “Google Sheets replacement that raised $100M at a $1.1B valuation.” It has a “rich templating ecosystem, with pre-built spreadsheets for content calendars, project tracking, user research, employee directories, and more.”

According to Airtable, in “having a spreadsheet with the power of a database, its mission is to democratize the transformative potential of software as a medium.” So impressive.

However, it took for them three years just building a prototype. Just imagine the cost of developing such unique product. Of course, the reward was huge.

If we have to look into our own backyard, probably, we can talk about food business.  Due to our present predicament, it has sprouted and spread like a virus itself. The question now is, are all of them or, particularly, the startups, just offering the same kind of food or meals? If they are, then, nobody will notice them. Well, a few friends might. Yet, it is not because of the food or meal but because they are friends. Too small a patronage to succeed.

Especially for startups, they have to be different. Maybe, they are different because they offer healthy food. Meaning, with healthy ingredients. More importantly, it is healthily prepared and is delivered to customers’ doorsteps just as healthy as it left by having bacteria-proof or virus-proof packaging.

Doing that might entail additional cost. But isn’t it that getting sick is more costly.  Therefore, customers will pay the price, higher it maybe than usual.

Again, the key is being different.  Differently better.

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