Market Differentiation

Proven Strategy


“We recently did an analysis here: We spend $12,000 to develop a Cook’s Illustrated recipe. That’s a lot of money. That’s weeks of work. The reason we do it is because that’s the point of differentiation. If you have something people can get in ten other places, I just don’t know how you make a go of it in the web world, unless you’ve got a lock on some sort of traditional media.” –

The common theme of the TrueNorth blog is better & different. That is clearly what makes the Cook’s Illustrated unique….and also what every businesses strategy should be. Differentiating product/services from the lowest common denominator is what contributes to growth and a solid business.

If a business is not different….it is like all the others and presents no reason why a customer should choose one or the other.

Being different is a proven strategy.

Ad Copy

Writing Craft

Ad Copy

Since 1994 there has been an auto auction in Raleigh….the Raleigh Classic Auto Auction. One important marketing tool is a 14 page color brochure included in the Sunday N&O insert.

While the cars are well photographed….what really stands out is the “copy” describing each automobile. The “copy” is effectively preselling prior to the auction. Some clever examples:

  • This is a fresh total restoration
  • It is highly optioned
  • Correct wide white-wall tires
  • This jewel is a rare find
  • This car had a rotisserie restoration
  • This beauty is 100% mint original

The key to great advertising is great copy…..not wordy….yet enough to peak a buyers interest. The Raleigh Classic Auto Auction does a fine job with finely crafted and descriptive ad copy.

Failure vs. Success

Five Reasons


Business failure….business success. Here’s five reasons for both:

  • Inexperience – experience
  • Poor interpersonal skills – good people skills
  • Minimal financial knowledge – solid understanding of profit and loss
  • Average customer service – outstanding customer care
  • Mediocre products – excellent products and execution

Business is complicated. For the most part, the above reasons are the “soft side” of business and often more difficult than inventing some new innovative product/service. As part of a long-term strategy….these five elements need to part of that strategy.

Looking back….we did all five well.


Tell the Story


Recently I heard two presentations – adequate….compelling perhaps….call to action maybe.

Making a presentation meaningful and interesting takes work. Toastmasters is a good  place to hone ones speaking skills.

From the Harvard Business School:

Telling a story is a the key element in excellent presentation skills along with a call to action….after all that is the purpose of most presentations. The other component is the professionalism of the speaker….developing a style which holds the interest of the audience….speaking clearly with out the use of filler words and overused adjectives….and of course succinct.

It’s a speakers responsibility to be excellent and nothing less….otherwise don’t take on the task.

Growing a Business

Rick Bayless


From The Chicago Tribune:

Most businesses want to grow….though some are content with a certain level of business….and some cannot duplicate the same business.

Rick Bayless is a restaurant owner in Chicago….with several successful restaurants.

In the Chicago Tribune article….three key points that apply to any business:

  • Grow, change, try new things
  • Be present (for every service) in the business
  • See the product from the customer’s point of view

It’s nice to see what we did in our family business 45 years ago….validated in 2014. We did do a few things right!




We purchased three new Whirlpool Appliances in 2010. Whirlpool has been over the years highly rated. 

The refrigerator was replaced during the first year….by Lowe’s….not Whirlpool….after a series of eight warranty service calls.

Quality appliances should have few service calls….yet in the mail was an offer for an extended service plan at $127 per year or $381 for five years. Its unclear this is offered by Whirlpool or a 3rd party. In addition there is a full-page of terms and conditions.

Either way, if a manufacturer builds a good product, should not it stand behind its products (as General Motors and other manufactures have to in recent auto issues). After all that’s why a purchase decision is made based upon the perceived quality of the products and the company that makes them.

The refrigerator is fine (after a service call to repair a flimsy evaporator pan at a cost 50% less than a years extended service). Passing on the warranty offer is an OK choice.


Fish & Chips

From Down Under

Jetty and the fish

There is always a different way to make a better business….even a small fish & chips van in Darwin, Australia.

Jetty and the Fish is simple a caravan (trailer) located in a car park (parking lot) near the harbor in Darwin.

The uniqueness of this food truck is that it was rated as one of the best restaurants in Darwin.

Small can be better….maybe another caravan somewhere else in Darwin.



Loss of Confidence


From the Air Force Times:

Disappointing certainly….yet positive in that senior leadership is making changes.(the Navy for the most part makes command changes rather quickly also) The vice-commnander of  the missile wing is a full colonel. On most bases that’s a high-ranking officer. Colonels carry a lot of weight….yet with the silver eagles carries the responsibility of performing as a real leader.

In the case of the vice-commander….something was lost along the way in leadership development. The wing commander acted quickly and he was relieved of command. That’s the way it should be.


Better and Different.


A new grocery retailer has entered our market….Publix.

Publix is an employee-owned….well-regarded retailer and is entering a new market in the RDU area. They have some nice specialty departments and are well-known for their service.

Publix, of course, sells many of the same products as the other stores….yet does it differently.

Lowes Foods, a North Carolina retailer, has also repositioned itself as “Your Homegrown Grocer” with complete remodeling of their stores.

Both companies are doing business differently and that is what differentiates them form the competition.


New Mower

photo (2)

It was time for a new lawnmower. The current mower is a Troybilt front-wheel drive that  is not very good on a sloping lawn. The tendency is to push down on the handle….the front wheels lift ever so  slightly so their is less traction to propel the mower.

Time for a change to rear-wheel drive and better traction. With homework done….the choice was a Toro mower, always highly rated. Off to Home Depot and ready to make the purchase. Next to the Toros were the Honda mowers. Honda an excellent product….only for a few dollars more.

The Honda would be nice….is it woth the extra 10% difference between the Toro? The decision….get the Honda.

How to get the mower home….Home depot will deliver for $20. An alternative go online….purchase the Honda at the same price….get FREE delivery. Yesterday UPS delivered the mower

I would guess that it cost Home Depot at least $20 or more to ship the Honda. Perhaps their business model is that online purchases are added business and the extra shipping cost is a cost of doing business. It would seem easier just to put it on one of their local delivery trucks and not charge the $20. Either way….a new lawnmower!