A Simple Approach to Differentiation: Your Company's Identity or Your Customer's

At Junto, our Mentor Team Meetings have a way of unraveling the hard questions in business. These questions push our cohort companies into thinking about, or actually having, the hard conversations they may have been avoiding or didn’t know were important.

In a recent Mentor Team Meeting, the hard questions were on differentiating a brand in a saturated market: how does one create a differentiation strategy, and then pursue growth through that diversification?


The first round of shared experiences in response to these questions focused on the concept of “why.” Similar to the process of creating a company’s vision, mission and values statements, defining what a company aspires to be sparked a deep conversation about the “why you do what you do” with the Mentors.

One of the Mentors shared that if he figures out why his company is important, as well as who his company is as a brand, he unlocks the company’s ability to do what it is they do. His company began rethinking their market approach and in turn they created a whole new “why” that none of their competitors had defined.

Another shared experience was about a company’s restructuring of its identity: instead of defining themselves by what they do, they defined themselves by why they do it. Company culture became their differentiating strategy. They created their core values, began marketing them, and started discovering that customers were responding positively to them, helping lead to closed business.


In conjunction with “why who you are is important,” we heard from our Mentors about the importance of identifying who the actual customer is.

We heard stories about misinterpreting a customer base, targeting too large of a customer base, as well as changing the the target market entirely, and every time it circled back to one Mentor’s question: “How do we narrow down our customer base and target those that provide the most value?”

This mentor said that his team got traction by identifying the customers around the things they did well: “Going after a segmented market creates scale.” He drove this point home with the realization that in a crowded market, “if I cannot define who my customer is, I do not need to take another step.”


The hard questions may be difficult to ask, or even answer, but in the end, defining the “who” and the “why” for a company’s brand are the foundational roots to value creation and scale.