Are You Ready For A Dog Eat Dog World?

Let's talk about competitionWith that in mind, let’s talk about competition. To paraphrase Sara Lee, “Nobody doesn’t have competition.” We do, you do, everybody does. Do I hear you asking what’s the point?

Simple. Since having competition is a given, it’s what you do with it that counts.

What do you do with it? Ignore it? Hope it will go away? Bad mouth it?  Or do you learn from it? Do you make improvements to keep ahead of it?

For many of us, a big part of our current competitive situation boils down to one word. Price.

There are always small companies cherry-picking chunks of the market with lower prices on selected product knock-offs.  Do they offer anything else? Uh-uh. They can’t afford to. Have they embraced the very important concept of customer support that is key to a successful marketing effort?

The low price competitor is historically short on value

The low price competitor is historically short on value

As we’ve watched price-based competition come and go over the years, we’ve learned that your customers demand more than low price. They want comprehensive programs that include new product development, technological innovations and easily understood differences.

They also want merchandising support that really helps them sell. And, of course, they want service…before, during and after the sale. Moreover, they want it from pros who know their products, their markets and their needs.

It’s impossible to separate price and value

Your customers also know that it’s impossible to offer a comprehensive package loaded with value and always offer the lowest price in the market. But, they’re not searching for a shortcut to a quick buck. Like you, they’re in this for the long haul.

Dog Eat Dog World of CompetitionIf this support list describes what you provide to your customers, you should be able to weather just about any competitive storm. Your customers should recognize that in this industry, it’s impossible to separate price and value. A successful distributor-based business needs both.

The low price competitor is historically short on value. And, in this dog eat dog world, value is the thing on which we and you keep our incisors sharp.

For more on value, see the Channel Instincts posts Are You Delivering Real Value to Your Customers? and Are You Your Customer’s Biggest Fan?

Are You Delivering Real Value to Your Customers?

price_is_what_you_pay_value_is_what_you_getMany business experts have hailed the arrival of a changing marketplace, one with a great emphasis on value and even a new value-conscious consumer.

But more than a little debate surrounds the questions of what really constitutes value and whether the so-called value-driven consumer actually exists.

Over the years, some have argued that today’s consumer is no more value driven than Cro-Magnon man was or space colonists are likely to be. In other words, the erosion of brand equity is nothing more or less than bad marketing.

Does value equal price?

Cost-vs-ValueMuch of today’s ineffective marketing stems from confusion between the words “value” and “price.”

Every consumer purchase can be seen as an equation in which value equals what you get divided by what you pay – and too many people mistakenly use “value” to describe the denominator of the equation rather than the result. This leads to tactics like price reductions and promotional discounts, “value” strategies that can actually erode a brand’s value.

On the other hand, by building up the “what you get” part of the equation rather than reducing the “what you pay” portion, smart marketers know they can get a stronger response over time.

How does prestige factor in?

Value Driven ConsumersAdmittedly it has become fashionable to consumers to demonstrate smart buying.

Yet prestige remains an important part of the value equation.  In marketing terms, it’s senseless to cut price and quality in order to maintain margins. Smart marketers maintain prestige imagery as part of their brand equity, while shifting their marketing emphasis to communicate the quality of their brand in more tangible terms.

Economists who think value equals price miss the point. In many cases, price is a secondary, sometimes limiting factor rather than the essence of value.

For example, while builders are notoriously price conscious, this does not keep a high-priced entry-door supplier from being the market leaders. A builder may actually consider the line low-priced because its decorative glass enhances the look of a home so much that its selling price is boosted far beyond the extra cost of the door.

Who defines quality?

Value-as-shown-in-dictionaryThen there is the manufacturer’s mistake: defining value as quality. Wrong again.

In a nutshell, value to a consumer is the satisfaction of a desire, not quality as defined by the manufacturer. What manufacturers consider a quality product may be irrelevant to the consumer, nothing but waste and useless expense.

Manufacturers may see this as irrational, but business common sense says there are no irrational consumers; they all behave rationally in terms of their own priorities.

There is nothing esoteric about this concept. Value merely means different things to different people at different times.

For more posts on value from Channel Instincts, see Are You Ready For A Dog Eat Dog World? and Are You Your Customer’s Biggest Fan?

Good Selling!

Active Search Results (ASR) is an independent Internet Search Engine using a proprietary page ranking technology with Millions of popular Web sites indexed.

Photo credit: StuartPilbrow via Flickr

8 Steps to Building a Customer-Focused Commercialization Strategy

8 Steps to a Commercialization StrategyBefore a commercialization plan can be developed and implemented, it must be driven by an overall commercialization strategy. By taking a strategic approach to your commercialization strategy, you will be better positioned to be successful with your new product launch.

The commercialization strategy should not contain a lot of financial detail or “how to,” but it must be consumer focused and customer centered and not technology focused. A key issue in a commercialization strategy is to set the direction to explore and understand the market. The commercialization strategy must focus on what satisfies the needs of the customer.

8 questions you need to answer in your commercialization strategy

1. What’s the Offering? (What are we trying to provide or create?)

Commercialization Strategy TipsAt a high level, clearly state what products and services are being offered to the market.

Identify what other products/services may need to be provided to be a credible supplier to the customer and the channel. Identify, at a high level the anticipated pricing strategy at the end-user level and for the expected distribution channels.

2. What is the Adjacency Assessment of the product or service? (How does the product or service align with the core business areas?)

Chris Zook in, Beyond the Core, addresses the concept of Adjacency or the relationship of an opportunity to your core business and competencies. Zook defines several things when looking at an opportunity:

1)    Core – Known business strengths and competencies

2)    Adjacency – Relationship to the Core ranked from 0 (identical to the core) to Diversification (a completely new area).

 3)    Shared Economics – There are five dimensions that when evaluated and measure the distance from the core and can be used to determine the degree of relationship to the core:

  • Customers – Are they the same as, or different from, customers currently served?
  • Competitors – Are they the same as, or different from, competitors currently encountered?
  • Cost Structure – Is the cost structure (infrastructure) the same or different?
  • Channels of distribution –Are these the same or different?
  • Singular capability/technology – If there is a singular capability (brand, asset, technology) that gives the core business its uniqueness, then is this relevant in the new opportunity?

3. Who is (are) the Targeted Customer(s)? (Who do we really think will want the product/service and Why?)

Identify who is (are) the targeted customer(s) – end-user, big box retailer, distributor, internal business unit, etc. Who are we trying to sell this product or service? Keep in mind that the targeted customer(s) may change as more marketing and Voice of the Customer data is collected.

Why is this customer believed to be the real customer? It is toward this customer that the Business Proposition will be initially oriented. It is toward this customer that the Business Plan will be structured.

4. State the “Business Proposition”

Strategy and Marketing traffic sign in the handThe business proposition describes what the product or service offers that no other product can.

It is important that the Business Proposition be benefit focused. For example, Coke quenches thirst. Coke is also a good rust remover but it will NEVER advertised as such.

The Business Proposition should take caution not to over advertise advantages – in other words, DON’T clutter the message. The more focused the message, the more likely to clearly communicate it.

Have a single Value Proposition – Keep It Simple – the KISS principle.

When developing a business proposition think of what people are buying.

Customers are not buying a product – they are buying what that product does for them. Customers don’t typically buy a product because they fall in love with the technology. Customers buy the SATISFACTION OF NEEDS. The Business Proposition MUST clearly state how that need will be satisfied.

Doug Hall, in his book, Jump Start Your Business Brain, addresses three key elements to Stating Value:

1) Overt Benefit to the Customer – What is the real benefit to be realized? Engineers love to talk specifications – “This car will go from zero to 60 in 3.2 seconds.” Buyers want to feel the wind in their hair and the thrill of feeling the force of their heads being pushed against the back of the seat.

2) Dynamic Difference – What makes our product/service any different that what is now available? Unless this product is for a total new and untapped market, customers have choices.

3) Real Reason to Believe – What gives the customer confidence that we can deliver the product or service we are offering? For example, “We have had Z years of 100% customer satisfaction as measured by JD Powers.”

5. State the “VALUE CHAIN”

Sales leadership stepsThe Value Chain relates to the business processes of the company selling the product.

Questions to be answered are:

  • Who will sell the product? Whoever has sales responsibility must be aligned with the Value Proposition – they must care that the product/service really does meet the customer’s real need.
  • Where will the product be sold? This may need to be clarified in later, but initially, choose the logical area(s) that fits in with your Value Proposition.
  • How do you distribute your product? What is (are) the expected distribution channel(s)?

The Value Chain and Business Processes must be aligned as close as possible to the Value Proposition. The closer the alignment, the greater the probability of success.

6. How will the product/service be Marketed?

Brand idea chartAt a high level, what is the basic marketing approach? Consider the following:

  • Who will provide the marketing activities?
  • Who internally will oversee that the marketing activities are done correctly?
  • Identify logical points to test assumptions, validate alignment with the Value Chain and/or Business Proposition, and logical changes/adjustments to the marketing approach, the Value Chain, or the Business Proposition.
  • What is the overall Communication Strategy for getting the message out to potential customers?

7. Provide a rough-order-of-magnitude Business Plan

Given the information available, give a high-level assessment of the business potential for the three years after commercial launch. Try to be realistic, meaning not overly optimistic nor overly conservative.

Items to consider are:

  • Sales
  • Gross Margin and Gross Margin as a percent of Sales
  • Operating Income and Operating Income as a percent of Sales
  • CAPEX
  • RONA

8. Major Commercialization Risks/Issues/Obstacles/Support Requirements?

What significant commercialization items can keep this effort from being successful? What support is needed from management, gatekeepers, resource managers, etc.

Write out what the risks are and rate them High, Medium or Low. Put a few ideas down on how you can mitigate these risk.

Don’t use a Ready, Fire, Aim commercialization strategy

readyfireaimTo maximize your chances for success, you need to be thoughtful in developing the strategies behind your new products.

Innovation can happen in the commercialization of a product as easily as in the product itself.

Think about all the ways you can build upon and leverage your commercialization strategy and you might find your sales teams more engaged in the product launch, your customers understanding what’s in it for them, and ultimately your new product goals being achieved.

Good Selling!

A special thanks to Lowell Dye for his help in better understanding the product development process and in writing this post.

Active Search Results (ASR) is an independent Internet Search Engine using a proprietary page ranking technology with Millions of popular Web sites indexed.