(click for all of Ira's posts)
(click for all of Duane's posts)
(click for all of our posts from guest authors)
- Body Language and Gestures,
- Career Development,
- Customer Service,
- Elevator Speech or Mission Statement,
- Human Behavior,
- Marketing Communications,
- Messaging and Content Development,
- Networking and Relationship Building,
- Professional Speaking,
- Sales or Outreach,
- Series - Presentation Reviews,
- Social Media,
- Venture Capital and Entrepreneurship,
Duane Bailey is a regular contributor to The Chief Storyteller® online conversation. He has helped organizations of all sizes drive growth in revenues and market share through the development and delivery of key business messages that resonate with target audiences. He holds an MBA in International Business and a BS in Marketing. He brings 28 years of experience in marketing communications and high technology sales.
When you think of products whose selling propositions are built around the promise of sustainability, which products come to mind? Green ones? Blue ones? How about gray ones?
If you said green ones, you might be right. Well, sort of. There is certainly no shortage of “green” products on the market today. Brands across many categories have added a green component to their products in an effort to appeal to one or more market niches, increase sales and demonstrate their commitment to the environment. Green products, as a whole, are largely considered alternatives to mainstream products and are often pricier. A common theme among green marketers is to ask consumers to make a positive change in one aspect of their consumption behavior, while permitting them to maintain the status quo with others.
Sustainability takes this call to action one step further. Sustainability is transformative. It seeks to reform the way we produce, consume and dispose of mainstream products. Upstart brands like method®, the maker of non-toxic biodegradable home and personal care products, market goods that are designed to reduce health risks, waste and water pollution. Their products are priced comparably to others in their category, sold in aesthetically-pleasing recyclable packaging and available through mainstream and specialty retailers alike (e.g., Target, Whole Foods, etc.).
For method®, sustainability includes a focus on health, community and environmental impacts. Products like its naturally-derived, 2-in-1 dish and hand soap come packaged in a gray bottle made with recycled ocean plastic. Each bottle includes a blue tag around its neck with a short story of how method® is seeking to change the way we view the impact our consumption and disposal habits are having on our environment:
"it's estimated that several million tons of plastic makes its way into our oceans every year, polluting the environment and hurting our marine populations...we're on a mission to change that. that's why the ocean plastic used to make the bottle you're holding was collected by us, method employees. we know we can't return the ocean to it's pristine condition, but we can raise awareness of the importance of reusing the plastic that's already here. that's something. [and] that's why I'm gray."
The next time you think of sustainability, don’t just think “green.” Think about the gray bottle atop your kitchen sink and the transformative nature of what it represents. Now that's something.
If I were to ask who your biggest competitor is, who would you say? Now think about your changing competitive landscape and where you would like your business to be in five years. Who will be your next big competitor? How will you compete?
The world is changing. Your customers are changing. The competitive advantage that made your business successful in the past may not be an effective source of differentiation tomorrow. Businesses that thrive over the long term understand their current competitors and how customers respond to them. They also seek to identify emerging competitors before they become a threat. Early identification of emerging competitors provides companies with an opportunity to modify their existing marketing strategies in ways that allow them to acquire and maintain a sustainable competitive advantage.
Astute marketers are always on the lookout for the next big competitor. What are you seeing when you look across the horizon? Are there any relative "unknowns" who might be threatening to disrupt your industry with powerful innovations? If so, how will you prepare to meet this challenge? Will you be ready?
I buy landscaping mulch every year. I’ve been buying it from the same local nonprofit now for several years…until this year, when they were unable to supply me. So I took my business elsewhere. Another “customer for life” gone forever.
Mulch is a commodity. I can get it anywhere at the same price. Regardless of where I purchase it, the product and the price are the same. Delivery to my driveway on the 3rd Saturday in March is free. And the one thing that bound me to my former supplier – the relationship I once had – had grown distant.
The decision to go elsewhere was an easy one. It wasn’t hard to find another supplier. I wrote a check and walked across the street to my neighbor’s house to drop it off. On Saturday, while I was away, my order was delivered and stacked on the sidewalk beyond my driveway. My expectations were exceeded. In years past, my other supplier would stack the bags in my driveway, which required my having to move them to the sidewalk in order to access my garage.
Later that afternoon, as I went out and began moving the bags to the area of the yard where they would be emptied, my neighbor’s SUV pulled into the driveway. Five guys from the delivery crew – all friends of mine – got out and began moving the bags to the rear of the yard. We laughed and we joked. Although I wasn’t looking for help, they insisted. Again, my expectations were exceeded. I knew then I had found a new supplier...one that I am hoping to stay with for years to come.
I share this story because it highlights the importance of differentiation in selling a commoditized, low-interest product. Marketers who succeed in retaining customers for life are the ones who consistently deliver and who find unique ways to differentiate their customer experience. Nurturing customer relationships and exceeding customer expectations are two of the best ways to accomplish this.
Think about your products and how they are positioned in the market. Are you just selling mulch?
For more on customer retention and ways to differentiate your customer experience, please see:
• Are Your Customers Looking for a Better Deal?
• Anticipating Needs Is the Key to Customer Retention
• “You’re Going to Like the Way You Look…”
In last week’s post, I spoke of the importance of providing a great customer experience across the various business processes that define your customers’ interactions with your brand.
I started with an assumption of customer dissatisfaction and the need to improve your customer experience in response to this feedback. I talked about the benefits of a great customer experience – increased customer loyalty, lower price sensitivity and higher profit margins. And I left you with a challenge – how to identify the process improvements that are likely to have the greatest impact on your brand’s customer experience.
The idea of looking at all of the various business processes across an organization – digging deep into the complex sets of activities that comprise their respective processes, identifying root causes of breakdowns, implementing improvements and measuring the impact of your efforts – can be overwhelming. To simplify, try looking across the various processes for areas of commonality (e.g., are there one or two things that can be done better across all processes to achieve your desired results?). These areas of commonality are foundational elements. Addressing these foundational elements early on often yields the biggest gains.
One such foundational element is communication – who, what, when, where and how you are adding value to your interactions with customers – at every process during the customer experience. Too often, organizations do great work and accomplish extraordinary things in service to their customers. Their customers just don’t know it because no one is communicating with them regarding expectations, status updates and resolution. As a result, your customers are left with an unsatisfactory customer experience that leaves them feeling unappreciated and undervalued.
In this sense, communication really is the foundation of a great customer experience. Finding ways to do it better across the various business processes that define your customer’s interaction with your brand will likely have the greatest impact on your customer experience.
Your customers interact with your brand in a variety of ways. These interactions may include some or all of the following business processes: pre-sales, sales, support, billing, and customer service. The customer experience you provide at each and every one of these phases in the customer lifecycle forms an indelible impression of your brand and what it means to do business with you.
Now, suppose your customer feedback reveals dissatisfaction with the customer experience that occurs during a number of these business processes. How would you improve your brand’s overall customer experience? Where would you start?
Best practices suggest starting with the big picture. The big picture includes a vision of what success will look like if the business process improvement efforts achieve their desired results. It also includes the new skills and other tools your employees will need to succeed, as well as a clear and consistent communication of goals and milestone targets. Finally, it includes rewards – bonuses and other forms of recognition – for members of the business process improvement team when goals are met and exceeded.
Business process improvements that result in a great customer experience can be a source of competitive advantage for your brand. Brands that provide a positive customer experience enjoy increased customer loyalty, lower price sensitivity and higher profit margins than their competitors.
Visit us next week for ideas on how to identify the process improvements that are likely to have the greatest impact on your brand's customer experience.