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“Uncopyable” Strategies for Better Business

By Beth Gainer on
MCN Editor Beth Gainer In May, marketing expert Steve Miller conducted a webinar sponsored by the International Manufacturing Technology Show organizers. The webinar focused on helping businesses become “uncopyable” – or differentiating themselves from the competition — coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Pre-pandemic, customers frequently met salespeople face-to-face. But COVID-19 has changed this business landscape. “What would we do if all of our customers, all of a sudden, banned face-to-face sales calls? Now we can’t say for certain that this may happen,” said Miller. “With Zoom, [sales transactions] can go pretty darn far. We’re going to have a new normal in the way customers want to do business with us.” He added that too many businesses are going to come out of this pandemic using the same pre-COVID-19 business strategies. 

Miller asked, “How many of us are simply going into that new normal using our old methods of sales and marketing? I believe there is a very high percentage of companies who are not really thinking about how they are going to change their strategies that much. They just want to restart where they were, restart what they were doing and go back to communicating with their marketplace the same way.”

“I think that might be a mistake.”

He suggested businesses should not continue communicating with all customers the same way because customers are as different as marketing strategies themselves. “Not all customers are equal, and so why do we send marketing messages out en masse to everybody, assuming that same message is going to work for everybody? Think about the 80/20 rule: if we look at our customer base, 20 percent of our customers represents 80 percent of our business,” said Miller. “Those customers, and prospects who are like them, should have a completely different message, they should have completely different campaigns aimed at them and not at everybody.”

Miller emphasized that differentiation is key and that in order to be distinct from the competition, businesses must be innovative. “We cannot go out there and do the same things, expecting the same results,” he said. “And the new skill is virtual; that’s pretty obvious. But what does that mean? It means virtual presentations and selling; it means virtual meetings. There are ways to be really good virtual presenters.”
He added that all businesses need to learn presentation skills and have the appropriate equipment to conduct virtual sales. “You and everybody in your company that has any type of front-facing, any type of connection to the customers, to the market, you all need to become really, really good at this.” 

Miller also emphasized the importance of companies differentiating themselves by becoming, in his words, “uncopyable,” emphasizing the importance of product quality and customer service. 

Product Quality 
Miller said innovative ideas are simply improvements on existing ideas, rather than completely new ones. Yet, distinguishing one’s business from the competition is always crucial.

“If the deliverable is going to be very, very hard to differentiate, then we have to look at a different way of defining ‘deliverable.’ We don’t sell products; we sell what products do for people. This is Sales Marketing 101,” he said. “So we don’t sell the feature; we sell the result. If you make drill bits, you’re not selling drill bits; you’re selling the hole. That’s the result the customer wants. And that’s all well and good, but even more important now is that we have to start looking at how can we as the supplier become a resource that is beyond the deliverable.”

Selling products is not as important as selling products with added value, according to Miller. “If you are charging money for a widget, and that’s the only thing [customers] are getting from you is the widget and if somebody else comes along and has a widget, plus some other added value — a component — not necessarily to the widget itself, but an added-value component from the company that they can’t get from anybody else, this is the deliverable,” said Miller. “If a company says, ‘we make widgets,’ the answer is ‘no, you don’t make widgets; you are in the business of marketing widgets.’ Well, we want to be in the business of marketing a solution. We want to be in the business of marketing a result to the people that includes the widget.”

Miller further emphasized that from a sales and marketing perspective, a company must develop deliverables to help separate itself from the crowd. “The number one mistake that we’re going to see people make coming out of this [pandemic] is if we’re selling a widget, then we are in a transactional relationship,” he continued. “We don’t want to be in a transactional relationship; we want to be in a transformational relationship, where we are helping [customers] be more successful. He added that transactional relationships are short-term, as they don’t promote customer loyalty.

Customer Service 
“We all say we have the best customer service in the market. If I go to your website, somewhere on your website, you’re probably going to say, ‘we have the best customer service.’ And everybody says that, but nobody is defining customer service,” said Miller. “And if everybody has the best quality and the best customer service, then nobody has the best quality, and nobody has the best customer service, and then the decision is based on price,” said Miller. “People do not buy from us because we are similar to the competition.” 

And Miller believes that price should not be the factor on which customers base their purchasing decisions. “There always has to be a difference, and if customers can’t see the difference between the product quality and the customer service, it boils down to price. So instead of selling product quality – because quality is a given – we’re now selling customer service.” 

“What if instead of customer service, we were to say, ‘customer serving.’ And this ties into the resource beyond deliverables. We serve the customer; we don’t service the customer.” 

“If everyone has the same product quality, the capabilities of the product, the service we’re delivering, then price becomes the issue, right? If you have a quality product, good service, good price that all depends on the availability of stock, that’s easy to copy. Availability is easy to copy, having inventory is easy to copy; if it’s easy to copy, then that’s part of the product and the service. Then price still becomes an issue.” ?