Thursday, July 28, 2005

"Provide Value, Be Unique, & Win Customer Loyalty"

Working with new inexperienced business owners, I find at times the expectation of their success rests all to high on the simple idea that if they can just get their doors open, and have products on their shelves, the customers will come. They believe that with a little advertising, they wont be able to keep the shelves stocked fast enough.

And unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

You can advertise all you want, but if the customer doesn't see a unique difference from where they're already shopping, you've wasted your time and money.

In today's consumer driven society, one must do something unique and provide value to the customer. Many stores sell the same types of products. All pet stores sell dog treats. All hardware stores sell hammers. All sporting goods stores sell fishing poles. Get my point?

To stand out from the competition, you must provide some sort of customer perceived value.

The easiest way to provide your customer with value is to be unique in some fashion. In fact - this is sometimes the ONLY way to become the leader in a commodity type business.

To give you an example, when I go to buy a bag of ice, I buy a bag of ice from whatever store is closest. Its very hard to perceive an extra amount of value from one bag of ice to another, worth driving out of the way for. If there is two brands of ice when I get there, I then go for the cheapest bag. After all, Ice is Ice. Right? This is the problem with commodities.

One way to add value to the commodity would be to offer a 10-20% larger bag of ice than the competition for the same price, and boldly state it on the bag's label. Another might be to set up a give-away for tickets to a ball game when you type in the UPC label on their website.

Those are just a few examples that would lead me to buy that bag of ice EVERY TIME over the other bag. You might even be able to charge a bit more (eliminating you from the price-wars) for your bag than your competitors if the label really draws in the customer. Who would you rather be, the business selling your bags of ice, or the business being passed up because you sell no extra perceived value?

Commodities aside, as I said before, all businesses now-days must provide something unique or some extra amount of value somehow.

We, at RMI, provide value in the following manor.

A) We offer an un-heard-of guarantee. "We guarantee we'll surpass your expectations or we will continue to work for free until we have. Period."

B) We provide person to person service, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.

C) We never outsource production work like many other marketing firms. This way we aren't acting as "the middle man", and it helps keep our prices low and profit margins up.

D) We offer free services and counseling by speaking at non-profit organization run seminars (like those by SCORE), and by writing articles for columns and blogs like this one.

Find a way you can set yourself apart from the competition and tell everyone about it in your marketing materials. Remember it doesn't help a soul if no one knows about the unique value your company provides!


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