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Are You a Commodity or Are You Different?

By: Drew McLellan


Commodity or Different

One of the first questions we ask a new client is “how are you different?” We usually hear things like:

  1. Our people are better
  2. Our products/services are better

But rarely do we hear, “we do what we do differently than others do it.” The harsh truth is, your people probably aren’t better. They may be great but your competitor’s staff is probably also pretty great. Odds are, your products and services do have rivals that are equal to what you offer. I’m sure you also have competitors who have lousy people and mediocre products/services but they’re probably cheaper than you are and that’s how they compete.

Let’s assume that there are a handful of companies who sell a product/service that is comparable to you and who have well trained, eager to serve employees. Those are your real competitors—the ones who do it as well as you do.

The danger to your business is that it’s just as easy to choose the other guy in the blink of an eye. When there’s really nothing different between you and the other companies, you all become, over time, average.

And that’s a very scary place to be. The reality today is that average doesn’t cut it. There are so many places I can get a “decent” buying experience. If that’s all that is available to me, why wouldn’t I then decide who to do business with based on the resources I hold most dear in a buying transaction:

  • My time
  • My money

I put those in that order on purpose. Today’s most scarce resource for the vast majority of consumers and business buyers is time.

I love the Buy Local movement but there’s a problem with it. If Buy Local doesn’t offer me something special and unique – most people are not willing to spend additional resources (both time and money) to support the cause.

Without something special in how you deliver your goods or service, you become a commodity. I know that’s harsh and I know it hurts to hear it. But if you don’t offer your customers something beyond what your other worthy competitors do, it’s your reality.

So how do you avoid to commodity trap?

Be more helpful than everyone else: If you are a resource that your consumers turn to time and time again, long before they buy, then they’re going to form an attachment to you. That attachment is a combination of trust, appreciation and obligation. You’ve already been so helpful, of course they’re going to consider buying from you.

Be more memorable than everyone else: One of the biggest factors in today’s buying decisions is the experience. Make it cool. Make me feel important. Make it selfie worthy. Do something to create an experience I want to tell others about. Don’t poo poo this if you’re a B-to-B based business. Those purchasing agents, business owners and general managers will love it if you wow them.

Be easier than everyone else: Why is Amazon winning? It’s so dang easy. 24/7, free shipping (with a Prime membership) and voila, it’s at your doorstep in a day or two. Plus, they have everything from shoelaces to lawnmowers and thanks to the customer reviews you can quickly get a sense of the product’s quality in relation to what you’re trying to buy. That’s tough to compete against.

We may not like it, but offering something of value at a reasonable price is no longer a game changer. It’s a commodity.

If you want to be a company that buyers seek out, recommend and remain loyal to – you’re going to have to do better than that. You’re going to have to change the way you deliver your product or service so that it’s downright remarkable.

Published: April 28, 2017

Source: Drew's Marketing Minute

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Drew McLellan

Drew McLellan has owned an advertising agency for almost 20 years, serving local, regional and national businesses. He also coaches hundreds of agencies on business best practices through peer to peer networks, workshops and consulting.  Drew is often interviewed/quoted in Entrepreneur Magazine, New York Times, CNN, BusinessWeek, and many others. The Wall Street Journal calls him “one of 10 bloggers every entrepreneur should read.” He blogs at both www.DrewsMarketingMinute.com and www.BuildABetterAgency.com.

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