To state a truism, it is an incredibly competitive world that we live in. And you need to keep your brand visible from the clutter with smart, sustainable tactics.
How do you stay relevant and differentiate your brand from the hundreds of others currently in the market?
In the past, companies have traditionally used the following two tactics to stay relevant. But these may be getting old and irrelevant to changing markets:
- Competitive pricing strategies
Why this works: Your consumer is constantly looking for a better product at a lower price. Who would say ‘no’ to buying a tablet PC for $750, marked down from $800? Certainly not me. Product companies are at war with each other daily to see who is priced better, and with more features.
Why this doesn’t work: Pricing is a dynamic factor that needs to be changed on a daily basis to keep up with the competition. Every day there is a new player in the field, with better features at a lower price. Try to undercut your competitors on a daily basis, and you might just end up losing out on a significant amount of earnings
- Constant innovation
Why this works: Everyone loves a good idea and a better product. That’s how companies like Apple survive, despite pricing their products above the competitions’. As a consumer, don’t you always want the most updated and technology-forward gadgets?
Why this doesn’t work: If great ideas were that easy to come by, every company would be at the top of its game. Although there are companies that innovate continuously, most companies tend to be incremental improvers – fixing a glitch, removing cost, upgrading features, and keeping pace with the market. Besides, sometimes existing products can be exactly what the customer wants, but because of lack of information, or bad or indifferent customer service, they back out of the buy.
It’s time we discovered newer strategies to drive sustainable brand differentiation. Let’s look at some of the following:
1. A 100 percent focus on the customer’s requirement
Companies have begun to realise that brand loyalty is becoming a thing of the past if the focus is just on product and price. Delighting customers in surprising ways at every moment of truth via new business models and engagement models is now essential.
Although tried and tested tactics never fail to generate results, loyal customers now expect every experience to be well-rounded and focused on solving their problem, want or need. In today’s world, nobody has the time to waste on advice they don’t want. Deflecting a customer with something they don’t want right from the minute they walk in will annoy them sufficiently for them to walk off. Generic offers, or “solutions” won’t bring the customer back to buy again
2. The extra step, and extra smile, in customer service
Peter Fader, professor of marketing at Wharton and co-director of the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative says “We have a ‘customer is king’ mentality, and we have come to expect world-class treatment.”
Customers want to be sold products by company representatives who know what they are talking about. The fact is that customers are probably more educated on your products and services before they even approach you to buy – the profiliation of information on the web and social media. Thus the buying behaviour and the skills required of your sales and marketing team must be radically different now. They must be outcomed based. You need to help the customer buy… not sell.
From a service perspective the requirement is simple, you must shift from reactive to proactive. Or where impossible to be proactive react in surprising ways.
3. Keeping up with social media
Your customer does, and will follow you online. At the very least, they’re going to want to peek at your online presence. Interesting online games, quizzes, product knowledge and questionnaires are a few ways of reaching out to them and keep them engaged from the start. Social media can result in you losing business without even knowing it. Consumers today simple ask the world wide web’s opinion (via social networks) whether they should buy from your company or not. There is no shortage of opinions that are provided in response. What’s the sentiment of your company on the web and how are you engaging in these discussions?
Although this might seem like a tall order, don’t despair because there are organizations that manage to pull it off and so can you! Companies like Southwest Airlines, whose airline crew goes above regular service and instigates impromptu airport games and activities when flights are delayed. Or some hotel chains belonging to Hilton, where warm, fresh chocolate chip cookies are supplied to customers regularly .
How many of the above is your organization following?
In one of next blog posts, we’ll explore the steps you can take to transform your company into a uniquely differentiated customer-centric organization.