Remarkable Impact on Your Customers Leads to Remarkable Margins

By Theresa Lina Stevens  |  Posted 2004-04-20 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Most companies are too subtle in defining what differentiates them. You have to be "remarkable" and you have to say so.

The other night I was looking for some relaxing reading, so I picked up a book that had been a gift. Lo and behold, my innocuous bedtime reading wound up being very provocative. It has had me rethinking my business and my clients' businesses ever since, and its primary point is worth your consideration as well.

The book, "Purple Cow by Seth Godin asks the fundamental question is: "What makes your business remarkable?"

It's a slight but compelling variation on the notion of differentiation. Prospects, potential partners and investors have asked "what makes your business different?" Yet, most executives have a very tough time articulating the answer to that question. Often the differences are mere nuances that are incredibly difficult to perceive or distinguish from the outside looking in. The most common (but worst) answer I hear from technology services companies contains phrases like, "we have the best people; we execute better than the competition; we come in on time, on budget…"

But the word "remarkable" is much more powerful and implies a level of distinction far above and beyond the competitor. To think about what makes you remarkable forces real clarity on the one quality or characteristic that very obviously sets you apart. And the pivotal word here is obvious. The problem with the way most companies define or describe their points of differentiation is that they are too subtle. The differentiation is too hard for a prospect to discern. But if you are truly remarkable in some way, the differentiation pops out.

While the author describes a number of categories in which businesses have chosen to be remarkable (customer service, return policies, consistency, the purchasing experience, packaging, etc.), most of them don't lead to sustainable, profitable differentiation for a technology services business. Instead, there is one major way in which a technology services company must differentiate in order to justify and earn higher prices: The ability to have a remarkable impact on your clients' businesses.

Results are what count for a technology services business. Clients hire you to get results. And the more quickly you can deliver those results, the more readily they'll hire you. The key to having your service practically sell itself is to develop a reputation for being able to come in and quickly have a tangible, positive impact on your client's business.

Who would you pick?

Consider this analogy. If you have a cholesterol problem and need to choose a doctor, which of these would you pick?

Doctor #1 is a Harvard educated practitioner with 20 years of experience treating a wide variety of ailments. When you meet with him, he talks about his education, how many patients he sees on a regular basis, how much training he gets each year, how he keeps an on-time schedule, bills your insurance company, and loads of other information that doesn't address your problem. He also lets you know that his per-visit fee is lower than most other doctors. When you probe him on the solution to your problem, he gives you vague answers, can't offer a time frame, and can't tell you what it will cost. (Sound like any consulting firms you know?)

Doctor #2 bypasses the credentializing and goes straight to your problem. He describes in detail how he has worked with 30 other patients your age with cholesterol at or above your level and has a program that will reduce it to normal levels within six months. He talks about some of the case studies, most of which sound just like you. He then goes on to describe the exercise, diet and medication components of this program, what he'll do, what will be required of you, and what it will cost.

Which of these two examples more closely mirrors your own business development conversations with potential clients? How much easier would it be to hook a prospect, investor or reporter if you were very clearly remarkable in your ability to deliver impact? How much more would clients be willing to pay you? If the problem is big enough, they might just pay you whatever you ask.

The Verde Group in Toronto is a wonderful example. They specialize in Customer Dissatisfaction for consumer services companies. They have the remarkable ability to tell the CEO how much revenue the company is on the verge of losing due to customer dissatisfaction. (The average across the board, by the way, is a whopping 10%.) In a matter of just a few months, they can tell the company what the specific problems are and how to prioritize fixing them, based on ROI. If asked, they will also help the company fix the problems and measure the revenue impact of having converted dissatisfied customers into loyal customers. I can't divulge their financials, but suffice it to say that margins are extremely healthy and the company is growing at 20-40% per annum.

So I ask you to think about ways in which your company is remarkable in its ability to deliver high-impact results. If these address common, critical problems in your target market, start to emphasize them more in your sales and marketing activity. If they are not of value to your target market or if you aren't remarkable in any way, then it's time to make some big changes in your business. "Different" isn't good enough anymore. You have to be able to deliver remarkable results. That's what people will pay for. That's what will command a premium. And premium prices lead to nice, healthy margins you can grow on.

Thank you, Seth Godin, for giving us the right adjective. Plain old differentiation just isn't good enough to truly become the Go-To among your targets: It has to be remarkable!

Theresa Lina Stevens specializes in market dominance strategy and marketing for IT and professional services companies. She is CEO of Lina Group Inc., a consultancy in high-growth market strategies.

 
 
 
 
Theresa Lina Stevens Theresa Lina Stevens specializes in market dominance strategy and marketing for IT and professional services companies. She is CEO of Lina Group Inc., a consultancy in high-growth market strategies.
 
 
 
 
 
























 
 
 
 
 
 

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