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  White Paper - Perceptible Selling Differentiation to unleash enterprise pride  
W H I T E   P A P E R
Only the buyer’s
involvement from inception of product
can create
Perceptible Selling Differentiation
by Shombit Sengupta
Fruit Seller
Roadside fruit sellers on carts have an inherent sense of exposing perceptible selling differentiation (PSD). They are conscious about enticing passers by, whether on foot, in a bike or car, to be surprised and stop to buy the fruits looking so temptingly ripe, fresh and ready-to-consume. Combined in these entrepreneurs are the roles of controller of supply chain, salesman, finance planning, administration and public relations to negotiate the space with the police or city authorities and competitors. This end-to-end entrepreneurship
of the Indian cart seller is apt learning for the sophisticated business run by corporate houses.
Genesis of USP in the
world of marketing
  Will today’s consumers go for this USP?
Earlier in the world of marketing Unique Selling Proposition (USP) was used for differentiation.

According to Wikipedia, “Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is a marketing concept that was first proposed as a theory to explain a pattern among successful advertising campaigns of the early 1940s. It states that such campaigns made unique propositions to
the customer and that this convinced them to switch brands. The term was invented by Rosser Reeves of
Ted Bates & Company.

“Today the term is used in other fields or just casually to refer to any aspect of an object that differentiates
it from similar objects. A number of businesses and corporations currently use USPs as a basis for their innovation & marketing.”

Even in R&D, we see USP being used to demonstrate differentiation.
Concept of USP has become obsolete in the digital era
In 20th century, innovation
came every 20 years
  21st century - innovation
20th century - innovation  
At the time when USP was invented, it took about every 20 years for most big innovations to emerge, global corporations had their own manufacturing plants, and industries dominated over consumers and business-to-business customers.
In today’s digital age people dictate their requirements to industry and innovations are happening fast and plenty, almost every 20 days.

In the rush to introduce products, companies are succumbing to mere sourcing from a limited number of suppliers. So where is the differentiation? Companies try to overcome this situation by being myopic about their USP, with an approach that is quite inside-out where the market reality is not considered. Inside-out means that you may propose something for the buyer, without first knowing about his/her requirement in-depth.

Misuse of USP
Marketers and people in general today have totally overlooked the fact that USP is advertising excellence that makes consumers switch to the brand that’s differentiated best. But USP in no way answers how a brand will sustain in the market. The term that was originally coined to showcase advertising creativity for attracting consumers, has unfortunately been wrongly seen in context to product development and brand proposition areas. You cannot expect that your consumer will switch off from your brand to another, or vice versa, because of advertising. This would mean your brand content is totally hollow. Mere advertising cannot win consumers, it requires more than USP to do that.
Three factors for purchase
Word-of-mouth: Word-of-mouth today encompasses a larger area than hearing from other people and getting influenced to buy. It covers the
entire gamut from where we get our information, including the social networking space. Backed by the authenticity of their previous excellence corporations can create very powerful readiness to launch a new product.
For example, there was a 2-day advance queue for the iPhone when it was launched in Japan.

First visual appearance: Having determined the product and brand you want to buy, you go to market. Suddenly a more costly competitive product grabs your attention at the point of purchase. They have managed their features so strongly that your fixed mind gets swapped and you buy even
at a higher price merely by seeing a product where you can implicitly gauge higher value. This is the impact of perceptible selling differentiation.
The first visual appearance also encourages purchase of an item not immediately necessary but on seeing it seems to be the right fit.
  21st century - innovation

Actual experience: Actual experience does not guarantee your buyer will return, again and again, for repeat purchase.
If primary purchase went very well but repeat purchase has stalled, it means deficiency has crept into your offer and its perceptible selling differentiation. Buyers in proliferated markets can always question a higher price. So you need to continuously measure your performance through a microscope to create repeat purchase of your product or service in
the competitive environment. At the same time you need to permanently vibrate perceptible selling differentiation with strong buyer involvement from the inception of your product development.

B2B business customers or consumers I’ve been meeting during research clearly say that by looking at a visual form or prototype of a proposition, they cannot commit to buying the product. They have to experience the product before
they can give that purchase act assurance. When we show consumers a new style of vehicle with a color that’s not available in the market, they ask about its resale value after 3 years and at the same time about fuel efficiency.

In a FMCG category, when we provide relevant stimuli to consumers, they may immediately like the subject, but they always want to check how it functions in usage after the first purchase. Apple has clearly demonstrated the power of consumer experience. I have always experienced the great difference it makes when you involve consumers at every
stage of product development. I have very often seen that the way we started and the way we ended to be very different because of bringing in buyers from inception.

Repeat purchase
The fundamental of marketing activities is directed towards repeat purchase. You will find several spectacular product launches, but repeat purchase goes by the wayside after 3-4 months. Why? It’s because there is proliferation of several products of similar performance. So we need something more than price and visual characteristics to bring out the intrinsic properties of the product so that repeat purchase will take place. This is another ritual of engaging buyers up to the point where they are ready to repurchase in an unbiased situation.
Perceptible Selling Differentiation (PSD)
In today’s fast paced product innovation cycle results in too many undifferentiated products. Coupled with that is the increasing demand
for experience by consumers. Marketers are challenged in their ability
to sell and resell products in this situation. One potential solution is to provide Perceptible Selling Differentiation (PSD)
What exactly does PSD stand for? It is an ‘outside-in-out’ approach. This means buyers have been involved from the inception of developing the product. Your sketchy skeleton should be evolved with buyer’s insight. After that, when it goes out to the market, there will be assured connect that leads to purchase and repurchase. Any differentiation that
you create, the buyers have to perceive that differentiation, see value in it and know that he requires it. It can be only done when you have very creatively developed your product taking in the buyers’ point of view. That perception of
buyer requirement is what the company needs to work on so as to provide it in the product. Post manufacture of that product, when it goes to the market for sales, it has to lead to the buyer’s purchase and repurchase act.
Demanding buyers do not pay attention to differentiation and jargons surrounding it. Nor do they seek flashy differentiation in advertising or products look only, or flashy people in B2B business. The perceptible differentiation they
are looking for encompasses quality first, but not the old industry variety of ISO 9000 or ISO 14000 quality. In the purchase of products, they are open to comparing quality with low cost Chinese products too. That’s why the first perception of quality is the most critical factor, which can be addressed by roping in buyer perspective from the start.

The many low priced options in the market make customers want to try them. How can you make them understand
that the magic you are offering is the best? Consumers or B2B customers will not spend money on the “it looks good” factor of a product or service. They may like the look of a product, but that’s not the reason for them to buy it. Only
your process of perceptible selling differentiation (PSD) will instantly reflect value to them, and your chances of achieving primary sales become very high. After experiencing the product, if the perceptible differentiation is satisfactory, you are sure to evoke repeat purchase.

PSD is key to sustain growth
In the competitive scenario, buyers in the world outside your company have to perceive the differentiation in your
product from their first interface with it through to its experience. If you hear customer language that comprises of 1)
“I believe in it,” 2)”It works well for me” and 3) “It looks good,” it would mean that the product or service the buyer is referring to has the three attributes that lead to repeat purchase. These three short sentences form the prime criteria that make a brand successful by ensuring its repeat purchase. The three attributes can be considered as buyer
confidence in the brand which has now become tangible.
I beleive in it It works well It looks good
In PSD, “Perceptible” means having an intrinsic differentiation from its competition that can be tangibly recognized.
That’s the reason for it to be perceived as quality. Selling means, “It works well.” A product or service may be the best
in the world, but if it doesn’t meet the requirement of the buyer who is buying it, that meaning disappears. “It looks good” cannot work in isolation of quality and functionality of the product or service. So differentiation is not the only attribute of “It looks good,” which was the initial theory of USP. In today’s world, evolved buyers have to be integrated
in any product development. You have to measure their judgment of how they rank what they have perceived.

Differentiation comes from the balance of quality (“I believe in it”), functionality (“it works well”) and the emotive factor (“It looks good”). The balance of all these factors ensures that differentiation needs to be made on a continuous basis. That’s why, in the 21st century’s digital technology proliferation, perceptible selling differentiation is the drive to
overcome competition. It is an in-depth, continuous, outside-in-out approach.

How to identify organizations lacking PSD
When an enterprise lacks in PSD, it can be identified from multiple symptoms such as:
1) Topline is growing but bottomline is painful.
2) Top and bottomlines both suffering.
3) Bottomline is good but topline is stagnant.

If you want to overcome these 3 situations, PSD is your most critical Performing Biz Identity paradigm. PSD is
not a practice only for one or two functions in the enterprise. All operations of the enterprise need to drive it.

Somehow in some critical pocket in your enterprise you have to make a pit-stop. The time to be spent at the pit-stop depends on the nature of the industry. It does not mean your total operations will stop, but that your ego-centric racing against competitors to gain market stature has to stop for tightening up the internal system. This means developing the product while involving the buyer to bring his perception in the change. An analogy here is that you cannot repair a car while driving it.

To make yours a transnational brand, you need your practice and delivery to follow the PSD culture. Big brands are
never continuously admired for their dazzling image. Rather they become all the rage because of their perceptible
selling differentiation. This encompasses the total faith and repurchase motivation of consumers or B2B customers
saying: "I believe in it, it works well for me, it looks good.”

How you can implement PSD either in the manufacturing or service business
Perceptible Selling Differentiation
Perceptible   A beautiful decorative restaurant does not mean that the chef is distinguished. A grand chef’s reputation is created from the food’s visual appearance, taste and up to its digestion. His reputation is not a lifelong award; he has to continuously perform to maintain it. His product development comes from multiple trials involving many people who taste the food and give their judgment. From here he fine-tunes every dish for his final delivery.
Stated need: When a buyer feels the need to have a branded or unbranded product or service he has experienced,
it’s a need he can articulate. The point here is that the buyer has already had the experience of the category. As a manufacturer, if you need to add value in such a situation, a great deal of sophisticated buyer research is required to
break this already experienced factor in a given product or service. Huge involvement from buyers is required to develop products. It’s not a matter of how much value you can add, but of adjusting the dosage. You have to arrive at a certain balance in your product or service delivery, the way a chef balances his dish.

Using the same ingredients as everyone else, a famous chef may not cook like others. In his different cooking system,
the timing for salt infusion into the dish may be so unique that the quality of taste is differentiated. A grand chef can
even tweak a sweet dish with a little salt to raise its taste. So in the stated need category you need to be with the buyer, to take his judgment on how you have cooked in a different way. This can help you develop the perceptible attribute of the stated need category once you involve the buyer from the beginning.

Unstated need: To create something totally new to start a new market, you have to simulate an experience. Take
the buyer into confidence to pilot the simulator and give his judgment. The simulation has to be so powerful and well designed that it can shift the buyer’s mind in a totally new paradigm to create a discomfort of newness in the product development as shock-of-the-new. You have to measure the degree of discomfort and score that extra discomfort.
Was it pleasurable in terms of the buyer’s exposure to newness? Was it uncomfortable? That extra degree of newness discomfort, if it excited the buyer with some benefit, is the unstated need.

If your concept does not fit a certain kind of buyer, you may have to change the buyer profile. The product may be
good for a flamboyant or critical buyer but may not suit a low key or value seeker buyer. If a certain number of buyers connect to this extra newness, the unstated need, you have certainly discovered something. Now you need to extend the simulation time to season your new proposition with buyers. The objective here is to get a better score to judge its viability for product development and go-to-market.

Everybody cannot have the expressive power to connect to an unstated need. So when you are creating an unstated need, you have to decide the kind of buyer you have to involve to create it. Even if only flamboyant and critical buyers have accepted it, you may find that low key and value seeker buyers will also buy it later. Society is composed drivers and followers. The unstated need requires a very strong qualitative approach to establish it. So you have to find society’s
driver to give a shape to your concept of the unstated need product or service. With good expression the driver co-opts the unstated need. Once he drives it, followers always come, and the unstated need slowly becomes an obvious need.

Selling   There are 3 selling acts, the implicit, the reasoned
and the hard dose. In the product development research lab where you involve the buyer, you
cannot force fit a proposition by applying reason
and bulldozing people to understand it if your proposition is not implicit to them. Until the buyer implicitly accepts the proposition, it’s a risk for a product or service to go to market. A discordant selling object with a hard sell approach is dangerous for repeat purchase. Only when the 5 human senses
appreciate the proposition as implicit can repurchase happen.
In a blind test where brands are hidden, buyers have to experience the critical payoff of a product or service. Strong
buyer interaction is required to expose a stated or unstated need product by showing the different pricing range in the competitive environment.

The 5 senses have a huge role in appreciating 3 measurement points comprising of a gap, saturation and satisfaction.
The buyer’s body language reflects whether the need is stated or unstated, and whether he’s experiencing a gap, saturation or satisfaction. This becomes evident when you film the buyer experiencing various touch points in the
product. By evaluating buyer body language you can understand whether your solution has a gap to be filled, it’s in the saturation area or it truly satisfies the buyer. You cannot get this idea from elaborate conversation alone. The buyer’s sensorial body language is very important to score the product or service in terms of the payoff buyers perceive in it at
the time of your product development research.

During product development research with buyer involvement, if the buyer’s random gesture of picking up the product
in the competitive scenario is not coming through implicitly, you can be certain that your selling proposition is not up to
the mark. You should go back to your R&D lab to rework the process, and bring it back to gauge the buyer’s buying enthusiasm. Any force fitting will not work. Until buyers come spontaneously, you have to continue to work to fine-tune your proposition. This is the way your product development should work out with high buyer involvement.

Differentiation   Visual differentiation that’s well polished on the surface is the external shell of a proposition. Only
the eye may have seen it, but unless the other
senses sign in acceptance, differentiation is not substantiated as a value proposition for the buyers’ sub conscious connect. Buyers should subliminally accept a perceptible substance embedded in the proposition for its real differentiation to lead
to a sale.
Only visual admiration of a product or service is not necessarily the psychological buy-in of the buyer. Your product or service can create perceptible selling differentiation if it has a blend of cost, quality and aspiration at any price point.
It can then stand out strongly in the proliferated jungle of competitive products.

A superficial flashy appearance cannot create differentiation that leads to repeat purchase. So the blend of quality, cost and aspiration is the only weapon to create perceptible selling differentiation where trust in the product’s functionality
and relevance to the buyer leads to repeat purchase.

  Think and act with PSD as the central gravitation of your enterprise.
For creating a new product or service or improving an existing one,
you need to involve a certain number of buyers as a sounding board
from the initial stage.

You may prioritize your enterprise, vendor, supply chain, analyst, and channel, but in developing a product give first priority to the buyer. Otherwise, today’s evolved set of buyers will not see perceptible differentiation in your offering. Without an assured buyer, where is
your business future?

For mass scale product marketing and selling, this is the only solution
that will give you strong topline, bottomline and marketshare growth which will sustain.

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