Blog Post Improving your Competitive Edge


Jul

23

2012

Improving your Competitive Edge

It’s tough out there; we all know that. Customers have less to spend and we seem to have more competition fighting for less business. As the world recession continues to affect our economy customers tend to work harder to get what they consider to be the best value for their money. This puts greater pressure on us to deliver.

Our business world is becoming more and more competitive while our customers are becoming more and more demanding.

This is not all bad news of course. Increased competition puts pressure on all of us to improve our offering to the customers to stay ahead of the game. Some companies succeed in this; others go out of business. It was Charles Handy who said, “The business of business is to stay in business” so what do we have to do to follow Mr. Handy’s advice? Somehow we have to improve the perceived value to the customer without reducing the price or profitability of our products.

The key word there is “perceived”. If we can increase the perception of quality and maintain the same price, we will seem to be a better value to the customers.

There is a great book on the shelves at the moment called “Don’t sweat the small stuff” If you want to increase the perceived value of your product it is different. “Do sweat the small stuff!” It is the little things that matter. Think of any quality product, it is the little things that give you that warm fuzzy feeling of quality.

Mercedes for instance. When you buy a Mercedes it is the small things that you notice. The first aid kit at the back, the red triangle in the boot (That you never have to use because Mercedes never break down……) Any quality product is like that, it is the little things that count. The cost of the little things in the Mercedes probably only amounts to 1% of the selling price, but they make a big difference in the perception of quality and value as far as the customers are concerned.

I get to stay in hotels quite a lot in my business, but I don’t often use hotel laundries, I usually carry enough clothes with me. On one occasion a couple of years ago I had to get a some clothes laundered because I was staying longer than I anticipated, and a shirt that went to the laundry didn’t have a button on the cuff when it went. I knew that the button was missing, but it didn’t worry me because I wear cufflinks.

When the shirt came back from the laundry, however, someone had taken the time and trouble to match a button and sew it onto the shirt. They didn’t mention it, they didn’t even charge me for it; they just did it! Now that’s quality!

It’s the little things that matter. What little things can you do for your customers today?

If you fly around the country you will notice that on some airlines there are two different levels of quality on the aircraft, business-class at the front and economy at the back. The price between the two classes is very different but if you think about it, you are both getting exactly the same trip. The business-class travelers leave at the same time as the economy class, and they arrive at the same time; well, business class arrive a little earlier but the difference is marginal.

The only difference between the different quality levels is little things. The business class traveler will get slightly better food, a little wider and more comfortable seat, but that is it. Quality is in the little things.

So what little things can you do for your customers that will increase their perception of the value they are getting for the money they are spending? The ideas here are limited only by your imagination.

The local printer that delivers a small bar of chocolate with anything you have printed, the garage that provides a free air-freshener, box of tissues or disposable rain mac when they service your car, the delivery company that encourages you to keep the pen when you sign for your delivery, the hotel that puts fruit in your room, the list is endless and the investment is minimal.

Think about the little things that you can do on a regular basis for your customers. Don’t charge them for it, don’t even tell them you are doing it; they will notice I assure you, just do it. You will be amazed what effect that will have on your customer’s perception of your quality and perceived value of your product or service.

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