Tag Archive for 'price war'

Small businesses: deliver what customers want, not what they need

Spend time in the marketplace and you’ll have many close encounters of the third kind with the most interesting species in all of nature: the human being. And just as we have learned about the nature of other animals, we also know that the nature of humans isn’t much different: All need to breathe, eat, drink, procreate and survive.

But there is something that clearly sets humans apart from all other fauna, sentience. And one of the manifestations of being self-aware is that beyond whatever humans need, they also want things.
The most essential fact that we small business owners must understand about the nature of those very important humans — our customers — is the difference between what they need and what they want.

Every human who owns an automobile will need to buy new tires at some point. But what they want is to not blow an entire Saturday finding and acquiring tires.

So if you’re in the tire business, should you advertise your tires, which are commodities and, therefore, very much like those of your competitors? Or should you develop a marketing program that anticipates when a customer’s tires need replacing and handles that project for them, including pick-up and delivery?

How about this tag line: “New tires AND your Saturday back”?

Basically the hairless weenies of the animal kingdom, human beings need the shelter of a house. But what they want is a home. So if you’re a realtor, should you focus your assistance on the obligatory list of a house’s features or how the physical setting and interior space fit what you’ve learned is your customer’s sense of what a home should be? Try this on:

“Mrs. Johnson, counter tops can be replaced. What I want to know is how much will you enjoy the sun rising over that ridge as you enjoy your first cup of coffee every morning?”

Humans, like thousands of other warm-blooded species, need to eat every day, whether they get to or not. But unlike other animals, only humans want to dine. So if you own a fine dining restaurant, do you emphasize the food that will soon be forgotten, or the atmosphere that can create a memory? Check this out:

“Long after you’ve forgotten how wonderful our food is, you will still remember that table for two in the corner or the booth next to the fireplace.”

In the 21st century marketplace the difference between delivering what customers want and what they need is, as Mark Twain said, “like the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

What customers need are commodities over which price wars are fought. That war is over, and small business lost. Don’t go there. What customers want is anywhere from a little bit more to everything. And along that continuum you will add technical service and customization as you deliver products to customers, resulting in higher margins for your business. Remember, everyone isn’t your prospect, just the ones who will pay for what they want.

Small business success requires that we do what we do better than anyone else: Deliver what customers want. Find out what that is, and then deliver it! Let the Big Box competitors give humans what they need.

I talked about this topic on my small business radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. Take a few minutes to listen. And be sure to leave your own comment.

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