Al’s Column: Steps for advancing value for customers

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February 1/8; Volume 30/Number 16

By Kordell Norton

The South attacked from the North and the North attacked from the South. What insights from the Battle of Gettysburg are there for businesses? Consider some basic principles.

  1. Transactions lead to transformation.

As a business matures and competition increases most products and services become more transactional. Specialized offerings get more competition, which forces everyone to sharpen their pricing or get some sort of edge. Eventually products become so generic that the market evolves into big boxes or morphs into high value offerings. Consider the overrun of Sears by Wal-Mart (transaction) and Nordstrom (transformation). When you want a makeover you do not go to Wal-Mart; you go to Nordstrom for your “transformation.”

  1. Transformations are building blocks for experiences.

The single-serve ice cream cone may cost you a buck, but the Cold Stone Creamery product increases the price paid by a factor of 5 or more. It should. It’s a real experience while the single serve is a transaction. It is a generic product that can be purchased at many locations. But that transformation of Cold Stone ice cream is where you take your date for an experience.

  1. When businesses go experiential.

People want experiences. They pay big bucks for them because they transform lives quickly and are memorable for a lifetime. Experiences are so powerful we want to share them with others. Making your efforts more experiential will make sales go up, cost of marketing will decrease, word-of-mouth buzz will skyrocket, referrals will increase, customer retention will improve and your leadership will grow strong.

There are numerous elements that go into creating an experience. A few to consider:

  1. Raiment.

Great experiences require a change of raiment, or clothing. It is the wedding dress, the graduation gown, the sports jersey for the big game. What special clothing is involved with your selling event? Shirts with a logo? One business association has its version of the Masters’ Green Jacket for board members, although theirs are red. Are you having a golf tournament? Might you have a prize for best attire, worst attire, most creative, etc.?

  1. Sound

When one Chamber of Commerce started focusing on outcomes for their members to help them increase business revenues they decided to have a theme song. Each of their meetings has the song “Taking Care of Business” playing (Bachman Turner Overdrive to the rescue) in the background as attendees arrive.

  1. Liquid

Most experiences have some sort of liquid as part of the event. It is the champagne at the wedding, the beer at the graduation. You are going to cruise across the liquid, drink it, surf it, skate across it, partake as a sacrament—there will be liquid.

Are business experiences a must?

Generals are always best at fighting the last war. But fresh horizons require new tactics. Sears fought against Montgomery Ward; did they even see Wal-Mart on their radar? Often we look backward because it is easier than the unknown future.

Are you going to attack from the South or from the North?

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