Every now and then you have to review your core values and beliefs. I recently ran my what-I-know-for-sure-about-business credo through a reality check. Wow! The things you learn when you raise your head out of the business-as-usual feed bucket!
I was always a build-a-better-mousetrap kind of guy. Give ‘em quality and they will come. I was also old school about how to present a product or service. The mantra was features, benefits, advantages. Features, benefits, advantages. Sure the other guy is good, but my product is better. And my price is lowest. If not, I’ll cut it.
I was beginning to suspect something was wrong when I would watch TV commercials that I simply didn’t “get.” I found a few good answers in Robert E. Krumroy’s book, “Brilliant Strategies and Fatal Blunders: How Small Businesses Survive and Thrive in an Overcrowded Market” (Identity Branding, 2002).
The more I read, the more I said, “Yeah, now things are starting to make sense.” For example:
1. Being best no longer has credibility. Being best is the baseline. It is assumed. As Krumroy points out, "Claiming to be ‘best’ is a losing strategy. It causes more skepticism than advantage."
Today, cars easily run 150,000 miles. Appliances and computers do not break down. Stuff lasts. So, promoting quality has no value. In the eyes of the consumer, what we sell is not all that different from that of the competitor down the block, whether we’re selling computers or consulting.
What makes us special, or at least more special than our competitors? It’s trust. Competence. Caring. Something unique. That personal touch, perhaps. That’s our challenge — to find and develop that which makes us special. So, don’t tell prospects that you are best or why you are best. Instead, tell them what you can do for them, how you can help them. The bottom line: Sell your warm ‘n fuzzy uniqueness, not your bestness.
2. Sell the “experience,” not the product. I can get a good cup of coffee for 89 cents at Joe Blow’s Diner, or I can go to Starbucks and pay $3.29 for the same thing. It’s all about branding, the experience, not the cup of coffee.
It’s good to be good, but as I mentioned above, it’s more important these days to be able to click with the consumer. The key is to position yourself and your products: Create a positive experience for the customer.
Example: Check out the new touchy-feely United Airlines commercials, the ones that are animated sketches. Besides the unique and attractive look, they focus on the experience of bringing people together and helping individuals do their business.
I call it the “Aw! Factor,” the ability of the business to make you believe they care about you as a person. In Krumroy’s words, "The ability of a business to succeed is far more dependent on the customer’s evaluation of the encounter than on the product or service."
Though my old-school mind hates to admit it, yes, it does make sense these days. Find what makes you unique and attractive. Then develop it and promote it.
3. Do not sell on price. Wal-Mart talks about price, but they’re selling a lot more – convenience, trust, reliability, the everything-you-need store. The price factor is old school again. And this is a mistake I make too often. I’ve low-balled myself with clients to get projects while a competitor focuses on their credentials or experience, and charges five times or more than I do. Guess who gets the job? When I have gotten it by selling price, I’m viewed as a bottom feeder. Not the image I’m trying to cultivate.
The bottom line: Review your approach to sales and marketing. If nothing else, make your strategy more experience-oriented and go for the “Aw! Factor.” Work hard. Make money. Have fun.
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