This past week I attended an event on the Microsoft campus organized by the Social Media Club of Seattle. Although I’m interested in social media I primarily attend to network and rub shoulders with a group of smart and interesting people. This week’s event was no exception.
Sean began by asking a simple question: “What does your company win on?”
Some companies win on price. Walmart is famous for winning on price. But winning on price is no fun because it’s a race to the bottom. It can also torch your suppliers. When a company has difficulty separating their product offering from those offered by their competition, they often resort to waging a price war. One problem to this strategy is customer loyalty seldom follows. The internet makes it easy to price compare, and your customers will buy from whomever offers them the lower price since that’s the only difference they recognize. K-Mart learned this lesson firsthand and barely survived.
Other companies like Fed Ex and Nike win on innovation.
Vizio getting their HD sets into Costco? They are winning on distribution.
Some people say Apple wins on style, but that’s only partially true. Apple has figured out how to create products that delight customers. In less than a year, my iPhone became the most valued gadget I own to the point that I’d rather give up my PC than my iPhone.
Walk into any Apple store and you’ll find employees who know the products they sell. You won’t spend fifteen minutes looking for someone to help you which is the norm at many retailers.
I recently went to the Apple store looking to purchase a case for my iPhone. The options were overwhelming. But an Apple store employee quickly described the differences before removing an iPhone from his pocket and handing it to me. “You want this one”, he told me. He was right.
He wasn’t selling a car or condo. We’re talking a $35 case. But he cut through the BS and found what I was after. Sounds easy, but it’s rare to find someone who actually understands the gadgets they’re peddling. Is the guy at Best Buy who just sold a dish washer, the best person to sell a smartphone? With Best Buy, it feels like they want to sell me something – anything, while at Apple, their goal is to educate me. Of course, Apple wants me to purchase their products, but they understand I’ll be a more loyal customer if I’m not just happy today but six months from now.
According to Sean, if your company isn’t winning on relationships, they won’t make it in this new world of immediate feedback and sharing through Twitter, Facebook and blogs. Information travels too quickly to recover from treating your customers poorly. Companies that build relationships will not only survive but thrive.
What does Sean mean by this?
Take a look at BMW. This is a company that works closely with enthusiast car club chapters around the globe. That gives the company access to some of the most influential fans of their cars who, in turn, share their excitement with potential buyers. These clubs often focus on the performance aspects of the car, but they also teach their members how to perform routine maintenance including car care. I attended one of these workshops and learned how to care for the exterior of my car. Until this time, I had no idea clay could be used to remove dirt and sand from paint.
BMW helps me learn more about my car and, in turn, I feel more invested in my choice and am more likely to purchase another one. The more features I use, the more invested I feel and the more likely I’ll become a return customer. For BMW, the relationship starts once I leave the dealership.
When I think of companies that excel at building relationships I think of Woot, Zappos, Amazon, Nordstrom, Apple and REI.
Take a look at your business and ask yourself, “What do we win on?”
What companies do you see winning by building relationships with their customers?