When you look at what makes some companies thrive while others struggle, the difference can be razor thin. When customers can’t distinguish what makes one company different from another, they are often at the mercy of apathy, or a decision based solely on price. It’s a customer’s buying nature to believe:
“In the absence of value, price is always the most important criteria.”So how can companies differentiate themselves from the competition without giving away products and profit? I’d like to offer three suggestions.
Hire the right people.
I suppose hiring the right people goes without saying, but how many companies really make hiring their top priority? The ramifications of a bad hire are staggering. A classic measurement used to determine how much it costs to fix a hiring mistake is roughly double the salary of that individual hired. When someone is hired and it doesn’t work out, they can disrupt the company, affect morale, and can even cause some of the best employees to leave as a result.But that’s not all. Often these hiring mistakes impact actual customers, which in turn creates a long-term cost that creates further consequences to the company. Did you know that an unhappy customer will typically tell anywhere between 11 – 20 other people about the negative experience they had?
Look for ways to creatively offer more.
One classic industry that struggles in a sea of sameness are banks. They all offer pretty much the same thing, and there’s a bank on almost every corner. I’ve consulted with dozens of banks in my career, and I always ask them, “How do you differentiate yourself from the other banks?” I can’t tell you how many bank managers proudly told me, “We learn our customer’s names, and we always have fresh coffee in the lobby!” Sorry, but that does not remove you from the sea of sameness.My parents used to drive much farther than they needed to because they loved one particular bank branch. When I asked them why, they told me this: “They always ask how Sasha and Tyler are, (their dogs,) and give us dog biscuits to take home to them.” Now that will get you out of that sea of sameness!
Establish a culture of exceeding expectations.
Remember the first time you ever walked into a Home Depot? Your local Home Depot carried the same hardware supplies as the other hardware store you had probably been going to, but there was something new; many qualified people who could assist you and answer your questions! The existing hardware stores never knew what hit them, and many were out of business in short order.Nordstrom provides another classic example. Nordstrom carries many of the same products as other department stores, and frequently for more money, but they’ve been able to maintain a culture of exceeding expectations for decades. They even redefined what standing behind an actual product really meant. In the past, if you didn’t like the purchase you made, all you needed to do was convince the vendor, and hope for the best! Nordstrom simplified this process, and made it clear that if you didn’t like the purchase you made, all you needed to do was, well, say so. Hello exceeding expectations, and goodbye to the sea of sameness!Proper hiring often takes patience, time, and a little luck. Offering more than your competition takes a keen and creative eye, a thorough understanding of your market, and the courage to try new things. Establishing a culture of exceeding expectations takes forward thinking, a willingness to overachieve at every opportunity, and discipline. No one said this was going to be easy, but the reward for removing yourself from a sea of sameness can be life altering. I think it’s worth it… Don’t you?
Related: The Fairy Tale Called “Win/Win”