To hit your goals you need competitive advantage. How can you create strategic advantage in your competitive marketplace where imitating competitors seem to frustrate your efforts to differentiate?
The answer for strategic advantage comes through customer experience.
As entrepreneurial companies that focus on operational excellence, the tendency is to think about driving new operational efficiencies to lower costs. We might also think about launching new products. While these are essential, they can be easily imitated.
The reality is that competitive advantage can be created based on how you deliver your products and services—your customer experience.
In his famous Harvard Business Review article, “What is Strategy”, Michael Porter defines strategic positioning as “the creation of a unique and valuable position involving a different set of activities.”
The way your company delivers products and services creates your strategic position. This means that you can create strategic advantage as you transform your buyer experience and customer experience.
Consider Uber. For people wanting to get from point A to point B, taxi cabs were the only option. Through the eyes of a customer, Uber looked at every stage of the buyer experience (finding and waiting for a driver) and the customer experience (riding in the cab and paying). This led them to improve every stage of the experience.
Yes, Uber created an app which drover operational efficiencies, but the app was primarily an enabling technology to make the experience better for the buyer. As a result of strategically positioning their company by improving customer experience, Uber generates almost $1 BILLION in revenue each month!
What do your buyers want? What could you do differently than your rivals at every stage of the buyer experience to create a more strategic position versus your rivals?
In their groundbreaking work, The Experience Economy, Joseph Pine and James Gilmore say, “Even the most mundane transactions can be transformed into memorable experiences.”
What could you do to improve your customer experience? What if you applied creativity to each stage of your customer journey from the time a prospect first encounters your company through their entire lifecycle with you?
Michael Porter says, “The essence of strategic positioning is to choose activities that are different from rivals.” What could you do differently to create strategic advantage in your market?
I look forward to visits to the Apple Store. As a fan of the brand and a tech nerd, visiting any Apple facility is a joy to me. (I even went out of my way to see the visitor center at Apple’s corporate headquarters last time I was in Silicon Valley.)
So, last week when my wife said that she wanted to go to the local Apple store to get a new iPad, I gladly offered to go with her.
When I arrived at the store, there was a security guard watching the door. In the tent, another security person interrogated us, asking us why we were there. After explaining that we wanted to buy an Apple product, she then told us to wait our turn.
Understanding that accommodations need to be made, we waited patiently for our opportunity to go in the store. Surely the in-store experience would be better. After all, Apple is the gold standard for customer experience.
In the store, we found a makeshift wall of white plywood with booths kind of like a ticket booth at the train station. Behind the glass, the employee barely welcomed us or thanked us for coming in. Instead, they asked for our order number. We explained that we hadn’t placed an order. Instead, we decided to drive 30 miles to the store so we could see the various models of shiny new iPads. The store employee apologized and said they were out of stock on the model we wanted. “Is there anything else I can help you with?” Nope.
I left the store dazed and confused. One of my favorite brands had confronted me with a dystopian experience.
Look, I’m not going to sell my Apple gear. The brand has 14 years of positive equity built up with me. But it got me thinking, “How does a store like Apple not get this better after a year of social distancing and updating processes for customer and employee safety?”
And, if my experience with Apple was like this, how are our clients experiencing our company?
I realize that we have all needed to make accommodations for the pandemic. I understand that going virtual is a challenge. I appreciate the reality that we need to protect our employees. I get that life in Zoom meetings or behind a sheet of plexiglass is not fun. All of this is true. However, it’s time for us to ask the question, “How can we make our experience better inside this virtual reality in which we must conduct business?”
Client Experience (CX) is critical to business success. Great experiences drive cross-sell revenue and loyalty. Poor experiences do the opposite.
Right now, it’s critical that we work as teams to improve customer experience. This applies to us for the remainder of the pandemic. It also applies as we chart our path forward beyond the pandemic.
Map Your Experience
The first step is to identify the stages of your experience. Look at it through the lenses of a prospect and client. What happens from the time they first encounter your company all the way through their time as a customer? Break it into stages. Then look at each stage and begin to ask, “How could we make this better?”
When we are leading a Revenue Growth Workshop for a company, I enjoy seeing teams of marketing, sales, and operations leaders work together to map their customer experience. Lightbulb moments happen as they put themselves in the place of their buyer or customer.
“This is the way we’ve always done it” simply doesn’t cut it in this dynamic market. As a result, we must be intentional to ensure that our experience is as remarkable as possible. Plus, with so many companies delivering a poor experience right now, creating a remarkable experience is a beautiful way to shine and create a competitive advantage.
Smart companies are intentional about every single experience. In Revenue Growth Engine I use my wife’s newborn photography business as an example. She has inspired me to pay attention to the details. Even as her business was able to open up with the right safety precautions in place, she has continued to look at the details of the experience she provides to new moms. The amount of goodwill and loyalty this creates is powerful, especially in the midst of so many bad client experiences that people have.
Consider New Options to Communicate
In his book, Never Lose a Customer Again, Joey Coleman outlines six options for communication that can be used during the stages of the client experience: in person, email, mail, phone, video, and presents. Your business may have relied on in-person interactions. During the pandemic, maybe you leaned heavily on email. What could it look like if you tried some other ways to communicate. Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:
- Send a thank you card in the mail after someone makes a purchase or meets with you
- Send a creative mailer after the first meeting. (Interesting ideas in this podcast: Nick Runyon-Tactile Marketing Automation)
- Pick up the phone and call them (Tip of the hat to Jeb Blount!)
- Send a video in place of an email to re-humanize your interactions
- Find a gift to send that aligns with your values and supports the stage of the process
What can you do to improve your client experience? Take bold steps in this area and you will build competitive advantage that will drive revenue growth!
2021 is a make-or-break year for many businesses. Right now we need to do everything we can to protect our margins while also growing revenue. Here are three ways that you can make that happen.
1. Focus on Cross-Selling
Most great companies deliver outstanding support to customers. Yet many do a weak job at cross-selling additional products, services, and solutions to their customer base. 2021 is a time to get sales and marketing aligned around processes to cross-sell to the base to maximize revenue per client.
2. Map Your Customer Experience
Service is great, but it is reactionary. What could it look like if you became proactive in how you removed friction at every stage of the buying experience and customer experience? Great experiences increase close rates, facilitate cross-selling, and improve client retention—three things we all need right now.
3. Understand What Your Buyers Are Buying
Buyers don’t buy products, they buy the outcomes your products and services create. Last year the outcomes shifted. For example, in the tech world instead of wanting scalability and efficiency, companies turned inward during the pandemic needing resiliency, flexibility, and remote work options. As we emerge from the pandemic, these outcomes will shift again. As this happens, we need to identify these outcomes and retool our marketing and sales messages.
Cross-selling, customer experience, and message all work together to drive revenue growth. Right now is a critical time to consider each of these as you optimize your company’s revenue growth plan to thrive in 2021 and beyond.
Originally published on Revenuegrowthengine.net.
For those who are obsessed with their products, the superiority of their business, or the beauty of their brand, this statement contains a hard pill to swallow. As great as your products are, as experienced as your team is, and as responsive your customer service may be, that’s not what buyers are buying. People do not buy your products, they buy the outcomes your products create.
Bob Moesta explores this principle in Demand-Side Sales 101. He shares the story of how he stopped trying to push his product on customers. Instead, he worked to understand the actual outcomes the customer desired. Then he engineered the buying process to satisfy the customer’s demand.
Buyers have a “job to be done”. That is why they buy a product. Period.
The “Jobs to be Done” theory (pioneered by Moesta and Clayton Christiansen one of my favorite authors) has been applied to design the world’s best-selling products. Successful product design begins with an obsessive examination of the outcomes that consumers want. Based on this, the product is reverse engineered to meet the demand.
The opposite of the “Jobs to be Done” theory is the “Product to be Sold” theory. Companies create products designed based on assumptions about what the prospect wants. Next, they fire up the manufacturing plant or the development team to build the product.
These ill formed products are presented to the sales team who then applies the “Quota to be Hit theory.” Sales reps assume they know what the prospect wants. Then, they proceed to put square pegs in round holes. It can work, but it creates a mess, a lot of hammering, and mediocre results.
Like Simon Sinek prophecies, we end up starting with “What?” and then try to answer the question, “How?” All of this ends up with frustration and often failure.
What if we actually started with “Why?” Why would the consumer care? Where are they feeling discomfort or frustration and why?
Moesta believes that for most companies there are only a handful (3-5) core “whys” that create demand. Once we intimately understand these drivers of demand, we can then craft our Ideal Client Experience and Focused Message around this demand.
Start with your Ideal Client. What outcomes do they want? This forms the foundation of demand. Build on this foundation and you’ll find success, even in an uncertain market. (Build on the foundation of how great your product and company are and you’ll discover that you have built your company on sand.)
How do you discover the outcomes your clients want? Ask and observe. Ask your Ideal Clients about their goals and challenges. Peel back the layers of the onion. Go deep. Seek understanding as to the real implications of the problem for their business and personal lives. (For more, read Value Is In the Eye of the Beholder.)
Then, watch. Pay attention to how the current situation frustrates them. What are their work-arounds? What’s holding them back.
From the client perspective, craft your Focused Message around the outcomes your Ideal Clients want. Propagate this message through all of your marketing and sales content. Then, design your Ideal Client Experience to match the actual demand in the market.
Just as manufacturers and software developers create successful products when they listen to their prospects, your marketing efforts will succeed as you pay attention to the actual demand, seeing to understand why your prospects buy and how they would like to buy.
Smart companies that use EOS® incorporate values to guide strategy and people decisions. Values also provide a foundation for effective marketing and sales.
1. Allow Your Values To Refine Your Ideal Client Profile
There are 7.8 billion people on the planet. There are hundreds of millions of businesses. Not all of these people and companies are a great fit for your business.
You use your values to choose and evaluate employees. Why not use your values to define your Ideal Client Profile? Will you sell to companies that don’t align with every single one of your values. Practically speaking, the answer is yes. However, when you are deciding who to target, why not target companies that align with your values?
Ultimately your team will be happier serving clients that align with their values. Your clients will be happier as well, leading to long term relationships, less friction, and lower costs.
As we lead our clients through Revenue Growth Planning Workshops we help them define their Ideal Client Profile. Some of this profile is demographic such as company size, industry, or geography. Perhaps the most important part is psychographic. Part of that psychographic profile can include your company values.
2. Integrate Your Values Throughout Your Messaging
Read most corporate messaging and you’ll discover what I like to call business buzzword soup. Here’s an example of buzzword soup from a technology company: “We help companies maximize their efficiency while reducing expenses and strengthening cybersecurity.” Is this statement true? Sure. Does it resonate with clients and prospects? Nope. It’s corporate white noise.
What if you could restate your core message using the language and spirit of your values. For example, let’s say the above company’s values were trust and teamwork. They might say:
- “Trust is the bedrock of business success. When your business is hacked by cybercriminals, you risk losing more than revenue from lost productivity or ransom payments, you risk losing the trust of your customers. That’s why we’re committed to protecting your greatest asset: the trust of your customers.”
- “Teamwork does make the dream work. However, it’s hard to work as a team when you don’t have the tools to communicate. That’s why our clients enjoy the way we empower their teams with technology that empowers teamwork. Then, we back it up with the support of our team.”
The two examples above said exactly the same thing as the corporate buzzword soup. They just presented the message in the context of values.
3. Use Your Values to Refine Your Client Experience
The authors of The Experience Economy make the case that client experience is the most untapped source of value and competitive advantage. What’s it like to be your client? How could you change your client experience to more closely reflect your company values?
At Convergo, one of our core values is “fun”. We believe that as we are working to help our clients grow, the process of business should be enjoyable. This value informs our hiring decisions. It also permeates our team meetings. It also shapes our client experience.
As we continually improve the stages of our Ideal Client Experience, we are asking ourselves, “How could we make this more fun for us and for our clients?” Just asking this question is fun.
As we enhance our client experience, we are doing it in a way that aligns with our core values. In addition to fun, our other core values are learning and transparency. We continue to incorporate learning experiences into the stages of our client experience. Throughout our client experience, we look for ways to demonstrate transparency.
Your company values can define and improve your marketing and sales. As you weave your values into your Ideal Client Profile, message, and Ideal Client Experience, the values come to life for both your team and your clients.