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Make an Unforgettable Statement.

Working Assets, Inc. raises money for social causes selling long-distance telephone service. A portion of each customer's monthly bill is donated to select nonprofits. Unlike the invoices of other long-distance resellers, Working Assets' bill looks like a social-issue newsletter. Consistent with the company's mission, its bill is printed on 100% recycled paper with soy-based ink. Ninety-nine percent of the customers open their bills the day they receive them and 20% respond to opinion surveys included in each bill. Working Assets has been an Inc. 500 company for five consecutive years.

This company's conscience makes it stand out. How can your business make a statement that sticks in the public's mind?

Companies often think too narrowly about ways to differentiate their product or service. Differentiation can be achieved anywhere along the value chain: through the raw materials you use, the way customers buy what you're selling, the way you deliver or package it, the way you bill customers, and the way customers finally dispose of it.

Imagine the possibilities!

List the points at which customers encounter your product or service. How can the product or service be differentiated at each point of customer contact? List all the attributes of your product or service (i.e., size, color, shape, features, location, time, etc.). What are all the ways the product or service can vary along these attributes?

Recommended reading: "Discovering New Points of Differentiation," Ian McMillan and Rita McGrath, Harvard Business Review, July-August 1997.

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