Creating a Clear Reason
to Choose You
Over Your Competition
By Joe Calloway
Right now there are
potential customers for your business trying to decide whether or
not to choose you. Unfortunately, most of them can’t see much
difference between you and your competition. You’ve all got good
quality products or services. You all seem to have competent,
helpful people. It all pretty much just looks the same. That
leaves one factor to drive the decision: price.
Welcome to the
commodity trap. It’s a place in which lowest price almost always
wins because customers don’t see any other difference. It’s not a
place where most companies want to compete. To escape the commodity
trap, you have to answer the toughest question in business:
Why should I choose
services and insurance products to fast food restaurants and medical
clinics, today’s buyers just don’t see much difference in their
choices. Unless you want to compete on price, you have to clearly
differentiate from your competition. You have to have a tiebreaker.
You have to give potential customers a reason to say, “Ok, that’s
the difference. That makes my decision.” The good news is that you
probably have one or more tiebreakers right now, you just haven’t
developed them as such.
aren’t anything particularly unusual or exotic, but more often the
mastery of a basic customer’s expectation. The best way to discover
and develop your tiebreakers is to list your customers’ basic
expectations of you. Start by choosing one basic customer
expectation and stake your claim with it. Improve your performance
in that area until it becomes “your turf,” and clearly
differentiates you from your competition. Reach the point where you
have mastered the differentiator and can confidently say, “Nobody
does this like we do.”
expectations will vary depending on the nature of your customers,
i.e. consumer retail or business to business, here are some typical
areas that can prove to be powerful tiebreakers to differentiate you
from the competition:
Be the fastest:
Quick response and always on time.
Become known for returning customer’s calls within one hour,
guaranteeing two-day delivery but always doing it in one, paying
your customer if you are late for a service call, or responding to
e-mails with lightning speed. In today’s “I want it yesterday”
world, being known for quick response or always being on time can be
a powerful differentiator.
Be the easiest to
do business with: Become the “no hassle” choice.
This has been listed as the number one factor with
business-to-business customers, and it has equal importance with
retail consumers. Look at every aspect of how you interface with
customers and correct anything that might make you the least bit
difficult to do business with. Are your invoices clear and easily
understood? Is your Web site easy to navigate? Do you empower
employees to say “yes” to customers without always having to get
approval from a manager? Be easy to deal with and win more
Let the customer
choose: Offer more selection and customization.
Today’s customers want exactly what they want, exactly how they want
it. Whether it’s the music mix on their iPod or their “no fat, no
whip, double shot, extra hot” latte with a shot of vanilla at the
coffee shop, everyone wants it their way. Let the customers
decide. Give them what they want, not what you want to give them.
Competitive price and clear value.
You don’t have to have the lowest price, but you do have to
demonstrate that you’re a great deal. That’s the essence of value.
Never take for granted that your customers understand that you’re
worth what you charge. Spell it out for them. Educate your
customers. It’s not their job to see your value, it’s your job to
show them. All it may take is a realization of “Oh, I didn’t
understand before how that was saving me money” for you to lock in
customer loyalty. Value can also be as simple as sending seven
when the customer orders six.
Be relevant: Take
a “big picture” approach to serving your customer.
Look beyond the
immediate needs of your customers to a bigger picture view of how
you can help them succeed, make their lives easier, or create new
opportunities for them. One company that sells pipe to building
contractors invites its best customers to annual seminars on
business development. An auto paint manufacturer offers its body
shop customers help with programs on inventory control, accounts
receivable and other business basics. A restaurant offers free baby
food to customers with infants, making life easier for the family.
Look beyond your core product or service and explore how a “big
picture” approach can be your ultimate tiebreaker.
Solve problems on
the spot: Empower employees to make it happen.
Nothing is more
frustrating to customers than hearing the words, “I’ll have to ask
my manager” or “I’m sorry, but our policy is ...” Train your
employees to resolve customer problems fairly, amicably, and,
whenever possible, on the spot. Effective problem resolution can
win you customers for life.
tiebreaker: Consistency of performance.
While it’s great to
hear “superstar” stories about employees that go above and beyond
for customers, the most powerful tiebreaker in today’s marketplace
is consistency. If customers know that no matter who they deal with
in your company, they will receive the same level of great service
every single time, that’s the most powerful differentiator there
Think about your
own customers’ basic expectations, then set a goal to improve your
performance on one of them by 25 percent. Start there, then
continue to get better. The more expectations you master, the
better your chances to win the business when your potential
customers ask, “Why should I choose you?”
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