Business Differentiation Through “Little Things”
I will often ask clients how they will be different from their competition. What will make you stand out from other businesses that offer similar products and services? Their knee-jerk reaction is often “I will be priced less than my competition”, but a low price strategy by itself is generally not a sustainable competitive advantage that is profitable.
I will often encourage them to think about their interactions as a consumer, and consider some “best practices” of companies that they do business with. What impresses you as you buy goods and services in the marketplace? From my own personal experience, here are some observations that I often make to my clients to stimulate their thinking:
Enhance Your Product (Inexpensively)—While visiting a new town years ago, I stopped by a small “mom & pop” ice cream store. I ordered a soft serve ice cream cone, and it was served with a cherry on top. “I didn’t order this with a cherry”, I said. “Yes, this is just the way we do it around here” was the reply. You know, they didn’t have to do that. It was a “little thing”, but it was their small way of making themselves slightly different than the major ice cream chain competitor down the street.
Connect With Your Customers (Initially)—My wife and I visited a new steak house in our hometown when it first opened, and when we entered, we were asked by the greeter if this was our first visit. After being served a fine meal, the store manager then personally brought us our check, “It’s my understanding that this is your first visit—we appreciate you being with us this evening.” You know, he didn’t have to do that. It was a “little thing”, but his taking those 30 seconds to talk with us made a big closing impression and significantly enhanced our overall dining experience.
Touch Base With Your Customers (Periodically)—In the city where I used to live, I had some auto repairs completed by a local automotive service shop. A few days later, I received a phone call from the owner, “I just want to thank you for stopping by and seeing us last week—any problems with your car?” You know, he didn’t have to do that. It was a “little thing”, and I can tell you that I continued to receive similar calls after many subsequent service visits, either from the owner or the store manager—I can assure you that they would still be servicing my vehicles if I now didn’t live a hundred or so miles away.
I would encourage you to think about positive experiences that you have had in being a customer, and then try to creatively incorporate some of those practices into your own operation. By perhaps adding some “little things” that don’t cost much money, you can go a long way toward differentiating your business in the minds of your customers, and thereby helping you achieve your long-term growth goals.