Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Volume 62 - What Lessons I've Learned at 1.2

Over the past few years of building a company from a 'clean sheet of paper' (concept) to bringing a high value, high quality product to the market place I've learned a few lessons that are worth sharing.

The importance of how Customers perceive one's product line cannot be overstated, regardless of the quality and value designed into the line. The defining of one's company in a unique way is as important as the product itself; therefore, the concept of 'positioning' becomes relevant to the discussion.

I've found that the power of positioning comes from concentrating on a narrow idea that defines the company in the Customer's mind. This seemingly simple subject is constantly in the developmental stage. We attempt to survey Customers, as well as our sales force, about their concept of our products, and 'our way' of doing business to see if it mirrors 'our' concept of the company; for if it differs, we have a disconnect. We have found that even in this modern decade of rapidly changing technology, where a ten year old child can set-up a DVR, send text messages, pictures, and scroll through multiple pages of information, some industries, ours being one, have trouble coping with simple electronic catalogs or any other documents 'on-line' versus the 'hard-paper' route. It simply seems that although everyone likes to 'boast' about their 'computer savvy' the reality shows that much less is retained compared to hard-copy. On the other hand, we have found that having and using forms for 'ordering' simply doesn't work as well as "anyway you (Mr. Customer) would like to place an order including a cocktail napkin."

We forget that with all of our 'Energies' toward Marketing and 'Explanations' of Differentials of Product that Customer's minds and processes are limited considering the amount of 'information' dispersed in a single day in today's 'Electronic' mass mailing mindset. We have found that if our Customers pay attention to our message, it will only enter their 'short-term' memory, where only a small amount of information will be held for a minimal short time period; Unless something is done to help them store that 'information' into their long-term memory, or it will be lost.

In addition, I've learned that people/Customers are self-protected from 'change' or anything 'new' which would change their 'actions' on a daily basis. Protection comes in different forms as in refusing to expose themselves to a new product/idea, or to pay actual attention to what is being delivered, or simply refusing to retain any information regarding the subject matter, consciously or otherwise.

What I've found is that when our message is simple and to the point or 'High' with emotion we have better success with potential Customers retaining our information. When we overload our message with too much information we see less retention. Sounds simple, but in application is a difficult road to maneuver. Success is based on bite-sized ideas and simplicity. Simple ideas make a powerful impression, based upon the reason that people use emotions rather than logic to make buying decisions. People tend to remember things that no longer exist, while tuning out new information that upsets (what I call) their 'obsession' against change. For example, a rather large potential Customer asks for pricing on several items even though they are in possession of our current price lists; this by itself should send up a 'red' flag condition that indicates their main fucus is to 'price shop' and that quality of product means little to them as buyers.

Independence2, LLC and our registered trademark i.2 series of products attempts to put into practice the idea of 'one to one' marketing, knowing that this depends on getting to 'know' our Customers and learning to predict and comprehend their 'needs,' 'wants' and 'expectations.' One certainly and quickly learns that not all Customers are equal. Organizational change might be in order for larger organizations, but with our Company we simply adapt accordingly to approach our business from a '1:1 perspective.' The essence of 1:1 marketing is acknowledgement of an individual at both ends of this equation. We therefore attempt to be collaborative with each individual and each company. This task is certainly a differentiation between us and other door hardware manufacturers who tend to take the opposite approach and push 'standardization' of Customer's policies and procedures. We realize and have learned that each customer is different, so individual collaboration becomes a necessity.

I've also learned that if you never hear a complaint, don't pat yourself on the back; instead, listen more intently. Handled properly a complainer can be turned into a loyal Customer for 'just by complaining' a Customer is initiating a dialogue and making himself open to 1:1 collaboration. Make it easy is to complain, not like 'institutions' using automated phones, nor like companies that screen complaints through 'low-level' employees (with bad attitudes). The fact is that 'good' companies can and 'do' turn dissatisfied Customers into frequent and satisfied purchasers.

A few more incidentals that interweave with all of the above to one degree or another:

* Avoid premature celebrations; Nothing counts until the check clears

* Don't try to be all things to all people. Learn to say no politely and pleasantly, but immediately and firmly.

* Don't be overwhelmed by the tasks before you. Don't try to do everything; just do something.

* Focus efforts on the crux of the problem. Don't expend energy on peripheral issues that are not crucial to producing results.

* For maximum effectiveness, do only what you do best and let others do the rest.

* Don't make promises you can't keep; once made, keep them.

* Don't expect friends, past business associates, or previous relationships to aid in your success.

* Everyone has an opinion; be careful who you ask.

* Most so-called 'experts' have never been 'on the front line.'

As a friend of mine has stated "Attaining a goal is a great moment for each person, but I believe there is something even more valuable to us than the actual accomplishment, whatever it might be. It's the process involved in reaching that goal that fuels one's spirit, creates one's character and feeds one's sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. In most cases, the daily work and planning involved in pursuing one's goal is much more interesting, exhilarating, rewarding, and yes, even exhausting than the actual attainment of that goal. The simple act of pursuing one's goal will lift your spirit, exhaust your abilities, push your psyche to unknown bounds, and hopefully invigorate your life."

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