In a world where intense competition has made many products and services interchangeable, price is the ultimate determinant for consumers. When customers know they can get the same product at a lower price from someone else, they will. There’s only one way to escape this: give ’em something they can’t get anywhere else. In Indispensable: How to become the company that your customers can’t live without, branding and competitive positioning consultant Joe Calloway offers an array of ways to do so. His suggestions include:
- Be willing to be wrong. Thomas Edison once said, “To have a good idea, you have to have a lot of ideas.” Most of them won’t pan out, but mistakes always give you information. As Mark Twain put it, “I knew a man who grabbed a cat by the tail and learned 40% more about cats than the man who didn’t.”
- Use the customer’s name early and often. Does it get any more basic—or powerful—than this? The Hermitage Hotel in Nashville credits its policy of calling customers by name with being a major factor in earning the next-to-impossible five-diamond rating from the American Automobile Association. It goes to great lengths to carry out this policy. Its bellhops, for instance, wear earpieces and wireless microphones to alert the front desk that a guest is arriving and to pass along the guest’s name.
- Generic marketing stinks. Reason magazine in the U.S. mailed out an issue with a satellite photo on the cover of each subscriber’s neighbourhood. In each photo, 40,000 in all, the subscriber’s house was graphically circled. If you’re sending out junk mail or generic e-mail when the rest of the world is learning to market to one customer at a time, it’s time you woke up and smelled the personalization.
- Sum up what you do for customers in six words or less. Calloway once worked with a healthcare company specializing in emergency wound treatment. In a meeting of managers, he asked one of them to boil down the company’s three-paragraph mission statement into a gut-level idea. He kept pressing and pressing until she finally nailed it: “We help people when they’re hurt.” In the ensuing discussion, it turned out this six-word statement of purpose, by making what the firm did personal, inspired the group of managers far more than the wordy mission statement ever had.