Betterment…Is A Strategy July 12, 2013Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, marketing, Marketing Buzz, Sales Strategy/Tactics, Sales Tactics.
Tags: business strategy, David Dirks, differentiation, market differentiation, market strategy, marketing, marketing strategy, sales strategy, small business strategy, strategy
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Why do people buy your products or services? Are they forced to buy them out of necessity? Do you have a monopoly? Probably not. But understanding why people buy – and it’s often not on price – is one key to business longevity.
If you sell products or services that can easily be obtained elsewhere, why should they buy from you? Think about yourself as a consumer for moment. When you make a purchase – are you making it to contribute to a life of mediocrity? No. We buy things because of one basic reason: betterment. I buy milk as a staple but the place I buy my milk is the place that offers me the best tasting milk at a fair price. I don’t buy my milk anywhere else because I feel the milk I buy there is better for me and my family.
Betterment. It’s a word…a noun to be exact. Websters defines it as “becoming better” and “an improvement that adds value to property…” Consider yourself “property” as a consumer.
As a business owner, your job is to convince the rest of the world (or at least your wedge of it) that your product or service offers someone a way to better themselves…their lives…their families. In a world where everything seems like a commodity, your edge is communicating how your company delivers on improving something in the life of your customer and, most importantly, your prospective customers. The success of your business model depends on it.
That said, if betterment was easy to define, everyone would be doing it but few are – just look around you. Most business owners are stuck on price or try to differentiate based on product or service features or benefits.
Apple has long been a master at parlaying great technology and wrapping it around betterment. Apple marketing and sales messaging is almost centrally focused on how Apple products enhance or better a life. And they are able to deliver on that promise to (if you are a pc head, you don’t get this but we’re ok with that).
If you follow a blog, perhaps this one – you have the expectation that spending time here will better your life or business in some way, shape or form. Otherwise, you wouldn’t spend you time on any blog that didn’t offer and deliver on that. The most popular blogs are followed because people get something out of them (entertainment value, economic value, etc.) that they can’t find easily elsewhere.
The first step on the path of a message of betterment is to translate what your product or service does to get a customer there. The destination is betterment. For example, a landscaper cuts the grass and makes the property look great each week. Where’s the betterment? How about the time it frees you from having to do it and spend more time on things you want to do instead – like spending more time with family. By making your property look like an estate, you feel that your property and the quality of your life are enhanced (as opposed to looking at tall grass and weeds).
In other words, a betterment message is thinking of your product beyond the standard features and benefits it offers. How does it translate – tangibly or intangibly – into a path to making some aspects of a customers life better?
The second step is making sure all of your marketing and sales messaging is zeroed in on the elements of betterment…clearly…concisely…and consistently. You have to be able to draw a picture in the mind of the customer so they don’t need an algorithm to figure out why your product is the one they should buy. They should “get” betterment.
Never easy to do but clearly worth the investment of time and effort to get there. Betterment – it’s a strategy.
Service Failure: Samsung June 19, 2013Posted by David Dirks in Building trust, Customer Service.
Tags: customer service, David E Dirks, differentiation, dirks on strategy, service failure, service recovery, strategy
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I own a great Samsung DLP TV and have had it for about five years. Just recently the color started faltering so I went online and sent a request on the Samsung service site for some…service. A few days later I received an email from someone from the CA offices of Samsung. Their email stated in part that they would make three attempts to contact us to arrange service. He noted in his email that this was their first attempt. So…I emailed him back the same day – thinking time was everything.
The next day – after only the first attempt – Samsung sent me an email to let me know they cancelled my request for service. No reason. Just canceled. So, I emailed the nice fellow (had no phone number or otherwise I would have just called him). I let him know that I had just rec’d a note from Samsung stating they cancelled my service request and that I in fact WANTED service – a paying customer!
Result: Nothing. No email response. No nothing. And of course, no service. Well, that was the end of my efforts to work directly with Samsung and their dedicated service provider.
Ok. So the next day I go online and find a local TV repair service. I fill out the service request form and send it via their website. Result: No call since and it’s been three days. I guess they are just too busy for a PAYING CUSTOMER like myself. What business are these people in?
What to do? I turn to Sears. I go online and within a few minutes am able to schedule a service appointment. Done. Now let’s see if they show up. I’ll let you know how this saga plays out in a subsequent blog post. Stay tuned.
UPDATE 070213: So Sears won the day. Not only was I easily able to set up an appointment for a repair person to come out to my house they also called to confirm the appointment (on top of the email confirmation). The repair person was professional, clean and knew his stuff. Problem solved for only $99.00 (which is credited to any repairs too).
Those other guys who never called me? I found out later that they are just about out of business. No wonder.
Pivoting as a Business Strategy July 5, 2012Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Strategy.
Tags: business strategy, David Dirks, differentiation, market differentiation, Pivot, Pivoting, small business strategy, strategy
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A Wall Street Journal article (‘Pivoting’ Pays Off for Tech Entrepreneurs, April 26, 2011) caught my attention. What used to be called a “failed business idea” is now known as pivoting. That’s when you have a business model and learn that it does not provide the revenues and profits you need to sustain it (or the venture capitalists who might back you). Pivoting is the art of then taking the pieces of the business model that work and creating a new business model…even if that means going 180 degrees in another direction.
Pivoting as a business strategy is not new. It just didn’t happen with much frequency until the advent of the web, apps and other such fluid technologies. Now, if it doesn’t work, just pivot quickly to something else. To me, pivoting makes sense. If you start with a business plan and model that you learn has faults, you just pivot to another business plan and model.
Of course, pivoting is not easy and full of risk. First, pivoting is an admission that your original business model is either failing or has already failed. In the “old days” businesses that failed or were on the path to failing…just plain went out of business. Secondly, you can’t pivot slowly. If you pivot you have to do so with all speed. Yes, pivoting is like changing the tire on a car that is still moving at highway speed. You don’t have time to extend the debate on what in your business model stays and what parts get junked and replaced. Third, pivoting doesn’t guarantee anything. It just means you get to live and learn another day.
Pivoting isn’t new. Thomas Edison pivoted more than 1,000 times before perfecting the light bulb. Sir James Dyson created 5,127 prototypes before he perfected his bagless vacuum. Pivot if you dare.
The Experience is the Marketing April 12, 2012Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Marketing Buzz.
Tags: best practices, business growth, business strategy, buzz marketing, David Dirks, differentiation, dirks on strategy, innovation, market differentiation, marketing strategy, small business strategy, strategy
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You want a great marketing strategy? Create an incredible customer experience and you’ll have the greatest contributor to new and recurring business you could have. Think about it. Most business owners and managers think of marketing and promoting their business in the context of spending money on advertising. While certainly advertising and other forms of marketing your business are key, creating a superior customer experience is the first worthy marketing investment you can make.
This is often a mistake made by new business start-ups who in the heat of battle forget that the experience they create for their customers is the most impressionable and lasting investments they can make.
And it doesn’t much matter that whether you provide a product or service either. We all know how much Apple pays attention to the user or customer experience. Every detail of the path their customer takes has been designed and engineered to provide a great and positive experience for the Apple customer. And yes, Apple spends plenty on traditional advertising and marketing. But I’m willing to bet that the experience of buying from Apple and then working with their products sells more product than the advertising does.
Do you know of a local business where they have created a customer experience that has the impact to keep you going back time and again?
So, for those businesses that compete on price as their primary “marketing” strategy, take note: price is your race to the bottom.
Here are a few things to consider in developing a “marketing experience” for your business:
- The customer experience begins at the point your prospect or returning customer enters your business – whether through your store or via your website.
- The first few moments of contact and connection to your business are the most critical. First impressions are important and immediate impressions are critical. If the initial impression is negative, you probably have less than a 50% chance of redeeming yourself in front of your customer or prospect.
- Customer experience has to be designed from end-to-end in order to ensure that the experience is engineered from the time they enter your online or offline store/office to the time they leave. End-to-end.
- Layout your customer experience on paper. You need to be able to describe what positive emotions & attributes you want the customer to get impacted by. You have to design a flow of experience that incorporates an impression that can be implanted into the customers brain.
- People within your business provide the most critical impact on a customer. Make sure that everyone is trained to provide the kind of customer experience that will delight. If you’ve been to a place like Disney World, you know what I mean.
- Be flexible and able to adjust your customer experience as you see/hear the reactions from customers. Be willing to test new ways to improve the customer experience. Look for examples of excellent customer experiences outside of your industry.
Creating an exceptional customer experience is not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it and it’s pretty clear most businesses don’t. A positive customer experience can create customers that stick with you and competitors who can’t follow you.
The Costs of Strategy March 6, 2012Posted by David Dirks in business strategy, Strategy.
Tags: best practices, business growth, business strategy, David Dirks, differentiation, dirks on strategy, marketing strategy, small business strategy, strategy
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It’s funny. Not a day goes by when someone tells me they need some “strategy” to help them in their business. Strategy? Today the word “strategy” is used like a cheap, $2 dollar bill. It must just sound good to say the work “strategy” in a sentence. So what’s so funny about that? Well, everybody wants a strategy until they find out that implementing it might actually cost them some money. Perhaps having a “strategy” might mean you have to upgrade a system or process to gain a clear competitive edge. Or it might mean investing in additional people resources to help you exploit a new marketing opportunity. As soon as the “strategy” requires an investment of some kind, the next stage is, “How can we do this on a shoe string budget?” Well, you can’t. So, business owners and managers will pick off the parts of the strategy that call for more investment than they are willing to make. That usually means that what’s left are one or two tactics that are weakened greatly because they were part of an overall “strategy” that now only has a few pieces of structure to hold it up.
The result: Strategy failure.
Couple of observations here:
- Strategy may require investment in resources whether it be money, people, and time or any combination thereof.
- “Strategy on the Cheap” is not a strategy. That’s hoping that you’ll find enough “cheap” or “free” ways to implement the strategy to make it work.
- Strategy is not a cure for a bad business model. If your business model is broke, no amount of strategy will help you unless you are willing to make great changes and most likely a reallocation of resources.
- Strategy is not designed to make you feel good. Strategy and the implementation of it may require you and great parts of you business to change.
- Strategy is not easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it and doing with great competitive and business results. Everyone in business isn’t.
- Strategy without action is dead-on-arrival. Nice to have but useless unless implemented.
- Strategy changes the moment the bullets fly. When the competition and markets keep moving forward, change is inevitable. When the competitive battle begins, be ready to modify your strategy as conditions warrant.
- Strategy cannot fix things tomorrow. Impatience is the killer of many “strategies”.
- Strategy development must be shared. You cannot develop a strategy by sitting yourself in a room and hoping something comes out of your head. Or perhaps what comes out of your head is not that good. Share your ideas and challenges with others and let the vetting process begin.
You get the point.
Digital Self-Publishing Still Requires… December 15, 2011Posted by David Dirks in Self-Publishing in the Digital Age.
Tags: differentiation, dirks on strategy, ebooks, sales, self-publishing
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Going through Mashable on my iPad a few minutes ago revealed an interesting story. Comedian Louis Szekely aka Louis C.K. made a $200,000 profit in four days after selling his latest online video. What makes this interesting? He hired a professional crew to film his latest act and then proceeded to produce, publish and distribute the video himself on his own website.
Szekely did what digital publishing promises: cutting out the middleman, in this case a studio and sold his product directly to his customers. And he sold the video for five bucks!
As he noted in the Mashable piece (by Lauren Indvik), “This way, you only paid $5, you can use the video any way you want…I got paid nice, and I still own the video (as do you). You never have to join anything, and you never have to hear from us again.”
But here’s the real deal noting that he’d “continue to follow the model of keeping my price as far down as possible, not overmarketing to you, and keep as few people between me and you as possible in the transaction.”
That’s the promise of the constantly innovating digital publishing world for anyone who has a hankering to publish their work (whatever that is). It’s the ability to publish your book or collection of essays or your video and have it listed on Amazon or in iTunes the very next day.
Flash forward now to a great literary publishing story named Vook. What is Vook? I’ll let Vook tell you:
A vook is a new innovation in reading that blends a well-written book, high-quality video and the power of the Internet into a single, complete story. You can read your book, watch videos that enhance the story and connect with authors and your friends through social media all on one screen, without switching between platforms.
I could go on and on with examples of where access to publishing to market is getting more direct to consumer than ever. People selling novels for 99 cents and selling thousands and thousands of ebooks…introducing themselves to their new customers…who they can sell more novels to.
You know Amanda Hocking? She’s an author that in January of this year sold 450,000 copies of her nine ebook titles that were priced from .99 cents to 3.99. She went from ‘zero to sixty’ in publishing…something you couldn’t imagine not too many years ago.
Would be authors and video producers need not get too excited just yet. No matter what the publishing model, it still takes that one thing to make a successful endeavor:
The Business Value of Integrity September 12, 2011Posted by David Dirks in Management.
Tags: business strategy, David Dirks, differentiation, dirks on strategy, increasing profits
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You can have the best business model in the world but if it isn’t backed with impeccable integrity, it’s a business model that isn’t worth much. The common dictionary definition of integrity is “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” One thing I know is that there is no strategy for having integrity. You either have it or you don’t. Integrity is learned at a very early age and by the time we’re teenagers, we either have it or we don’t.
The business value of integrity is worth far more than gold. Integrity in business has another name and a distinct, definable value: goodwill. Goodwill is defined as “the established reputation of a business regarded as a quantifiable asset.” So, if you have a business that is engineered on a great business model that rest on a solid foundation of integrity, you win two ways. Your first reward is a business that is growing and profitable. Your second reward is a business that is worth far more than what your accountant would call “fair market value”.
What I personally like about integrity and the resulting goodwill that it produces over time is that there is no ‘formula’ for it. There’s no ” 5 Steps to Integrity” or some other swill. You either possess it now or you don’t. That’s refreshing.
Just How Much Variety Do We Need? March 26, 2011Posted by David Dirks in business strategy.
Tags: beating a recession, best practices, business growth, business strategy, David Dirks, differentiation, dirks on strategy, marketing strategy, small business strategy, strategy
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In the toothpaste product world:
- There were 69 new toothpaste varieties introduced in 2010
- There are 352 distinct types of toothpaste sold today
That was enough to stop me right there. The context the WSJ story was this: Can brands confuse consumers? If you look at the above data, you’d have to say ‘probably’. But interestingly enough, brand loyalty to toothpaste is fierce. I buy only Colgate toothpaste with baking soda (of one flavor or another) whenever I shop. If I don’t find it, I find it somewhere else. And that’s why many retailers are reluctant to winnow out the ones that don’t sell as well and focus on keeping the shelves stocked with those that do.
Both Colgate and Crest have long known how inelastic consumers are when it comes to trying another brand of toothpaste. So, they merrily create the latest version of their branded toothpastes and keep them coming through product development and onto the shelves of retailers.
How much variety do we need? As much as it takes to keep us brand-loyal. In the meantime, retailers have little choice but to stock up on as many brands and sub-brands of toothpaste in the market as they can afford. Confusing for us consumers? Yes but a necessary evil.