What’s your product’s unique mechanism? (Don’t have one? Use these examples.)
Let’s start with a little human nature 101: Whenever someone buys something, they buy it to get from point A (where they are now) to point B (where they want to be).
Think about it:
When you buy a coffee, you want to transition from foggy to ready for the day.
When you buy new clothes, you want to transition from bored of old clothes to feeling fresh.
When you hire a life coach, you want to transition from clueless to grabbing life by the balls.
What about when you don’t get to point B? You’ll probably judge what you bought as inadequate. So, a product’s success ultimately rests on whether it helps you make that transition—and whether it can do so better than competing products.
This differentiator is what Todd Brown calls a unique mechanism, and what you (like I did, before I wrote this) might assume is pretty much the same as a unique selling proposition. Nay, young grasshopper. Unlike a USP, a UM isn’t something about you that’s different. It’s not even your product itself.
It’s the unique way (or several ways) your product delivers the desired transition to your customer.
Say you’re a software company that helps large, distributed companies make sense of their data.
Here’s what your customer’s transition would look like:
Some might argue that the customer doesn’t care about the details as long as they get the benefit. Fair enough, if the benefit is unique. But if there’s nothing particularly special about what you deliver—lots of companies sell analytics, after all—then how you deliver it can make all the difference. Without that UM, you’re a commodity (gasp) offering the same old what-have-you as everyone else.
Get what I’m saying? Not quite? Well, in a quest to better understand unique mechanisms myself, I turned to the online tools I use to see how they separate themselves from others. Let me hit you with a couple more examples of UMs before I show you how to develop your own.
Examples of unique mechanisms
Benefit: Automate your social posts.
Unique mechanism: Hyper-automate posts by queuing up content from anywhere on the web after a one-time setup.
Like Hootsuite and other popular social scheduling tools, Buffer allows me to automate publishing (point B: be better at Twitter). Nothing new there.
What makes the platform special is that it takes automation to a whole new level by allowing me to set my posts and forget them. After setting up a posting schedule once, I can go wild adding posts to my queue without thinking about what time each goes out. And the platform offers this Chrome extension I can use to add anything I’m reading to my queue in a couple clicks, without even signing in to Buffer.
Benefit: Keep your accounting in order.
Unique mechanism: Get customized help and synchronize your data.
Unlike its competitors, Wave is all about integrations, real-time tracking, and automated basically everything. It’s especially good at synthesizing my data into detailed analysis reports so I can make smarter financial decisions all on my own (point B) when I’m not tapping into its network of live accounting experts for help. And it’s all-round super-easy to use.
All this makes sense when you consider that Wave’s mission is to “simplify the financial lives” of its customers. As busy entrepreneurs and freelancers with (typically) no background in finance, those customers are sure as hell going to need it.
What can we learn about the uniqueness of these two companies’ unique mechanisms?
Most of them get their customers from point A to point B faster or more efficiently. That’s what the people want these days, so makes sense.
You don’t need more than one UM like the above tools do, mind you. Mine is just one part of my onboarding process: heavy research into new clients’ audiences. (There! I got one.)
However multifaceted, your UM just needs be:
strong enough to show you’re better than your competitors at delivering results, and
aligned with your (and your customer’s) mission.
As you’ll find across the board of successful brands, this is the kind of info you’ll want showing up in your messaging.
How to develop unique mechanisms
With all that in mind, it’s over to you. How do you guarantee your customer’s success?
Todd Brown says you can answer this question from a few perspectives, depending on your situation.
If you already have a little something unique about your product or service—a proven process, a customizable framework, a never-before-written algorithm—congrats. Describe it in more specific terms, and you have your UM.
If there’s nothing unique about your product or service, no sweat. In that case, ask yourself one of two questions:
What common component of my product or service (that’s delivering results to customers) is not being talked about by my competitors? To use a classic example from Claude Hopkins, suppose you’re a brewery using a complicated process to purify your beer—it’s a process every brewery uses but nobody shares with the public. Or,
How can I make the ordinary extraordinary? No, not by disguising one thing as something else. But by jazzing it up a bit, putting a compelling twist on something you wouldn’t usually think twice about... like when Frank Kern turned a bog-standard sales email sequence into the 4-Day Cash Machine.
From there, it’s all about how you show off your unique mechanism, using content marketing to highlight how your product or service helps customers in ways those other brothers can’t deny.
If I wanted to show prospects how I can help them with audience research, for example, I might write a step-by-step blog post on creating buyer personas (watch this space).
A couple last things to note:
1. Consider how your unique mechanism fits into different stages of awareness.
Customers who are solution aware—meaning they know a solution to their problem exists but don’t know specific products—they are the ones who don’t care about your UM. They just need to know your product delivers.
On the other hand, if your customer is aware of various solutions on the market and wants to know what’s different about yours, (s)he might decide to get into the weeds of your product’s features. That’s the person who’ll want to hear about your unique mechanism.
Tip: Start with the benefits, making your reader the hero of the story, and follow up with the mechanism.
2. Lucky for you, product-focused content is down with the kids right now.
In its study, The 2018 State of Digital Content, Altimeter found the most popular content is the kind that explains how to use and get the best out of product features. Imagine that—existing customers are the ones reading our content!
But remember: Keep that reader—customer or prospect—front and center.
Let me end with a cool quote that inspired this blog post:
“You don’t create a purple cow by being different. You do it by creating something worth talking about!”—Seth Godin
Have you thought of your business’s unique mechanism yet? If so, what thought process helped you find it? I’m curious—hit me up in the comments.