‘Over-Serving’ Customer Can Help Give a Brand Front-of-Mind Position

Sep 2, 2007  •  Post A Comment

When I was in the wholesale food industry, we used to call it the “aisle decision.”
That’s when a customer is, say, standing in an aisle in front of 15 brands of ketchup trying to decide which one is the best value. After scanning the shelves, she soon discovers that all of the bottles and brands are priced within pennies of each other. Since price is not a differentiating factor, she grabs the big Heinz bottle “just to be safe.”
We knew that she would most often choose Heinz because that brand has very high brand value due to its long-standing television campaign and its 50 percent-plus market share. The Heinz brand value eclipses all of the other brands when it comes to the final tipping point of brand trust. In other words, the customer could not find any other reason not to buy the well-known national brand.
Are you the “first choice” brand in your sector? The goal of a profitable television campaign is to achieve a quick customer preference for your brand. Having this first-choice status is great, but getting it is not easy. And once you have it, you must do anything you can to keep it.
You always hear the term “brand value,” but what does that mean to a small or midsize business owner? How can it help create a more effective television campaign? Brand value means that all things being equal, including price, the consumer will choose your brand as preferable to all others because of your higher perceived quality.
The power of high brand value is unquestionable, and there are many decisions to make when building it. I recall walking into a meeting with executives from McDonald’s as they were standing over a table filled with dozens of “new” McDonald’s logos, with only the slightest of differences of color and shape among them.
When it comes to a high-value brand name, the little things are big things.
If you are a business owner who wants to build extraordinary brand value for your company, consider the following steps:
Study customer buying habits. There is a reason for every customer action. For example, if your customer typically shops at certain times or on certain days of the week, ask why, and consider adjusting your marketing around these times. (Example: The 3 Day Suit Broker stores in Los Angeles are open only three days a week and generate amazing sales results.)
Own a niche. The best way to own a niche is to create your own. What idea can you develop and market as an “exclusive” to your business? We’ve met many businesspeople who have created entire industries simply by breaking away from the expected and initiating a fresh take on an old consumer expectation. (Example: Starbucks, whose CEO, Howard Schultz, talks about Starbucks being “your third destination after home and work.” Try to name any other fast food that you actually look forward to.)
Over-serve the prospect. With large-ticket purchases such as autos or a home-improvement contractor, American consumers typically call several companies.
Consequently, you can be sure that they will complete their initial Web and phone research quickly. Since these inquiries are mostly by phone, consider training your front-line team in advanced phone skills. Saying more than just “hello” can create a more compelling relationship with a new customer, and perhaps give you an immediate customer advantage. What additional information can you give the consumer to help them make a wise decision? (Example: Delta Air Lines, whose operators are as good as any travel agent in securing good fares.)
Surprise and delight the customer. This is where good merchandising skills come in.
What products and services could you package together to create a unique value statement?
Remember, the more distinctive your offer, the harder it will be for a customer to cross-shop your business. Another benefit to creative merchandising is that it can even help bring customers back for a second look at your company. (Example: Publix Supermarkets offer free store-to-car delivery service, with no tipping allowed.)
Get on the consumer’s short list. Often Americans shop in patterns of three. For example, they will call three car dealers for a price on a new car, they will call three plumbers for an estimate on a job or they will try out three churches before they decide where to take their families. This gives them a “good,” “better” and “best” comparison point so they can gain perspective and find differences among the choices. What they are actually doing is seeking out brand-value advantages.
Caring More
None of the ideas above requires much investment of capital. It’s not about spending more, it’s about caring more about the consumer’s experience before the sale. Too many company owners worry about service only after the sale, when it’s over-serving consumers up front that creates higher sales.
Another way to create better brand value prior to the sale is to market exclusive offers that are available only at your business. This requires a little more planning, but if you really want to win in marketing, you need to bring something fresh to the marketplace.
We have an auto client in Florida that became the brand’s third-most-profitable dealership in the United States because we offered the marketplace an “exclusive.” Consumers called to find out more and were invited to visit the dealership. Also, past customers called to see if they could still get the same deal. The client did not mind extending the offer, since it created goodwill with past customers.
Take a risk. Educate potential consumers in your television campaign. When customers call, explain not only why to buy your product, but how to buy your product as well. Helping a consumer to buy will most likely make him want to buy from you.
Perhaps you could share vignettes about how to buy your product or service on your Web site. By offering this kind of advice, you become a local authority in your area of expertise; educated consumers have been proven to be less price-sensitive and tend to give more referrals.
Now that’s building brand value.
Adam Armbruster is a partner with Red Bank, N.J.-based retail and broadcasting consulting firm Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster & Co. He can be reached at adam@esacompany.com or 941-928-7192.

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