A few years back I used to regularly present on the idea of ‘Daring to be Different’ which helped organisations look at the way they do business and consider new (and maybe better) ways of doing things. Although not a new subject by any measure, and indeed there are many books and online resources available, the common denominator in creating successful change is you.
When thinking about how your business sits within your industry, you can choose from a number of ideas to work towards:
- You choose to sell your goods and services cheaper than anyone else (what do you have to compromise on to achieve this?)
- You can offer one of best quality products/services but charge a far higher price than most (which types of customers do you price out of your market?)
- You can offer something that no-one else can (with so many options you need to have a solid strategy to help support you.)
Many of the businesses I work with and talk to spend a lot of their time talking about how they feel the best way to compete is purely on price; but I want to stand up with the few and state right here that price is not what makes your customer pick you.
Words like ‘cheap’ and ‘low-cost’ allow your client to focus their attentions on the £s and $s without understanding what the value is behind your business. All those sleepless nights you spent putting a proposal together has been undermined in one fell swoop and you’ve allowed the reader the liberty to compare you to whoever they like, regardless of their capabilities. Many of the high-street stores play this game and commit themselves to this mentality until they do something drastically different, or worse, fail and die.
In times like these, the marketplace exposes excellence which arises from savvy business people realising that emotion is playing a bigger part than ever in our buying decisions. Why is it that a client is more likely to spend £6,000 on the latest and greatest sound system for their home on impulse over a well-thought out decision to opt for a server upgrade? Some of your greatest competitors are not even those who claim to offer the same products and services as you; it’s the travel agents offering the dream holiday to take them away from tough times at work or the car salesman who is offering free upgrades to those who buy from them before the end of the month.
You could quite easily take stock of the quality of your product/service and realise that the experience your staff hold make it only right that your clients should charge a premium. It happens and is accepted in most industries; think about hair salons where you pay on the basis of the professional level of your stylist.
So if you’re Harley Davidson where you put a premium on your machines to draw the elite bike rider away from the influx of Japanese manufacturers or De Beers where they control about 70% of the world’s diamond supply which helps them control demand and therefore attach bigger price tags, then you can play your market well. When it comes to selling technology, it will do you no harm if you show what goes on ‘under the hood’ within your organisation so that clients recognise that you are growing to help them.
Think about how much research and development organisations such as Microsoft invest into their technologies ($9bn in 2009) so that client’s stick their flag to an organisation with a strategy and vision for the future. If you can create confidence and trust within your clients then you need to show you are constantly earning the right to have that. If you have put time and money into knowing what the next big thing is then the right clients for you will understand why they pay the premium. Other examples include Next Retail charging for their catalogues or Hiscox insurance charging a higher market rate for their insurance only for the clients to experience a ‘no questions asked’ service when they ring in to claim.
Then you could always think about doing something different. What about when Red Bull changed from being associated as much with heavy weekend drinking sessions that led to the demise of a few young people to become one of the most prominent brands at the Canadian Winter Olympics in 2010? Red Bull became the primary sponsor for both Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn, two of the top three athletes on Forbes’ top-earning Winter Olympians list.
You may not realise it yet, but your business may have a whole host of opportunities in other industries as well as within the market you play now. Think about your clients; do you know who their clients are? Are they all using something better because of you? Imagine your product as a online social networking contact; how many contacts are they away from achieving new business revenue? Think about how the Post-It note came to light or WD-40… anything is possible… Get talking to your clients and they’ll naturally show you your next steps.
So my advice to you would be to look at your current business offering and spend time thinking about how you can build upon your successes that capitalise on your core competences. Feel free to play the ‘cheap’ game but recognise that it’ll be your only card to play to win when others have a full house.
- Think about the legal implications you may incur by doing something different: Foot Anstey Solicitors (who also offer a special a special package just for Microsoft Small Business Specialists!)
- A few inspirational quotes for you to keep you going when times are tough
- Why not download a few podcasts to listen to when walking the dog? There are plenty online to choose from and all FREE!
- Expand your mind and get reading Wired – this should help inspire and provoke some thought. (I’ve just signed up for an annual subscription.)
Susanne Dansey is the Managing Director of Purple Cow Ideas Management – an organisation that facilitates a paradigm shift in the collaborative nature of the ICT Industry. You can follow her on Twitter and join the conversation on Facebook.