The Market Feasibility/Viability's section's third requirement asks you to describe the meaningful differences your customers will want in your product or service.
How will your buyers distinguish your product or service from your competitors' products or services? What will they look for and expect to find?
Attack this requirement from two angles. One will be descriptive and catalog the meaningful differences that set your product or service apart from the competition.
The other will be the "So what" question: While your product or service may be "different," is it different in ways that customers find important? You don't want your customers saying, "No doubt it's different, but I still don't want to buy it." Isn't your goal is to have your customers say instead, "Now there's a difference that makes a difference." How will you do that?
Products and services can be differentiated to varying degrees. Little differentiation will be found between chicken products, for example. Automobiles and furniture illustrate the opposite extreme where designers never seem to run out of ways to set their product apart from the competition.
PRODUCTS might be differentiated along these parameters:
Form Are there meaningful differences in the product's size, shape or physical structure? A basic product like Aspirin can be differentiated by dosage, shape, coating, release-time and more.
Features Features supplement a product's basic function. They are the most common form of product differentiation. A rain-sensing feature, for example, is an extra-cost option that supplements the basic function of a car's windshield wipers. Part of deciding whether to add a feature is performing a cost/benefit analysis. Simply knowing that customers will want a feature doesn't answer the question; will enough customers want the feature to justify its cost?
Style From the customer's perspective, how does the product look and feel? Is the product "eye-catching" or make someone yawn? Style may be a source of competitive advantage because it is difficult to copy, but also brings disadvantages. Stylish products are often expensive to maintain or repair; Jaguars classically illustrate this point. Packaging is also part of style-based differentiation; a large part of a product's appeal (perfume, for example) may come from how it is packaged and presented.
Performance Quality What is the product's "level of performance?" Does it perform its function better, in ways that matter to customers, than its competitors? Does using fresher ingredients improve the product's quality? Can customers tell the difference between quality levels?
Durability What's the product's usable life? Is this something that matters to customers? Will your customers pay more for a product that lasts longer? Can a product's suspect durability be offset with a longer or more comprehensive warranty? What's the tradeoff between a product's durability and the likelihood it will be outmoded by technological advancements?
Reliability Will the product work? Will it malfunction or fail? When might it stop working? Maytag, for example, has built its reputation on supplying reliable products. Similarly, parts for air traffic control equipment must function reliably.
Repairs and Maintenance Is the product easy to repair (or get repaired)? Can the product's owner repair the product with parts that are easy to obtain? Does it need to be regularly maintained? How much maintenance is required and how does it get done? Can the consumer perform any or all of the regular maintenance?
SERVICES (and the service associated with a product's purchase and use) might be differentiated along these parameters:
Obtaining Service When a customer needs the service, can it be easily located and obtained? Internet access may have made it easier to "obtain" a service, but has it also made it easier to find it? Does on-line shopping give customers too much information or too many choices?
Delivery and Performance How is the service delivered? What's the customer's role when the service is performed? How much time or involvement will be required from the customer (more time or involvement equates to higher costs (and possibly less value) for the customer?
Warranties Warranties for services may be harder to define and provide. Products usually work or don't work and what defines whether they're working or not is (relatively) easy to know. Customers of a service business may not be able to define their satisfaction in objective terms. Referrals and recommendations are essential for the success of a service business. Providing a replacement service for an unhappy service-consumer isn't obviously possible. Likewise, refunding a service-consumer's money probably won't make them happy although it may make them less unhappy. That means they probably won't give prospective customers a "bad" recommendation, but will instead give a "no-comment" or lukewarm recommendation, which may be worse.