Maximum Value Is the Key to Keeping Customers
With increasingly fickle customers and competitors who can almost instantaneously emulate product and service innovations, "many companies find themselves in a descending spiral where it seems the only way to do business is to almost give it away," writes consultant Thomas Winninger in Full Price. The answer to this dilemma, according to Winninger, is to find what makes your company unique (from a customer's viewpoint) from the competition and capitalize on that uniqueness. Only then can companies avoid fruitless price wars and achieve, instead, full price for their products and services.
The key to finding what Winninger calls "your one thing" is maximum value perception, a term he defines as "seeking and fulfilling the highest need of your premium customer." Premium customers, he writes, fit four criteria. They have a high-level need, a unique value need and a frequent need for your product or service, and they are influencers of others.
Selling the Program
After an opening chapter on maximum value perception and premium customers, Winninger dedicates each of the following 14 chapters of the book to a specific action step that will help companies seek and fulfill the highest needs of those customers.
One chapter, for example, is entitled "Selling the Program."
According to Winninger, no product or service is offered in a vacuum. "Almost every product sold is intimately tied to several aspects of a process - that is production, conversion, technology, logistics, distribution," he writes. Selling the program means learning in detail the needs of your customers, then customizing accordingly the processes and systems linked to your product or service. "The end result is a product or service that becomes so critical to customers that they are willing to base their future on it," explains Winninger. "Pressure is taken off price, which becomes an ancillary issue."
How do you "sell the program"? First, by focusing on what the product or service does, not what it is. In sales terms, this means selling the benefits, not the product. Toy store chain Zany Brainy, for example, doesn't focus on the product - toys - but rather on the educational benefits of those products. Thus, the majority of a stores' staffs - called Kidsultants - are retired teachers and learning specialists who can offer insights and advice on selecting products. The stores are separated into sections marked Discovery, Creativity and Young Builders. Books, software and CD-ROMs make up a major part of the merchandise. Zany Brainy is not selling toys; it is selling an education program.
Emphasizing the way a product or service is bought or sold is another way of selling the program. Thus, Xerox doesn't simply push copiers, but takes a consulting approach with premium customers, examining a customer's business and envisioning how Xerox products can be used to improve document production and distributions processes. Finally, after-sales innovations - L.L. Bean's generous return policy is a shining example in this case - also reflect an effort to sell the program.
With chapters on a range of issues - from "Segmenting Your Services to Targeted Customers," "Owning the Customer's Buying Cycle" and "Educating the Customer" to "Living the Brand," "Exploiting Technology" and "Forging the Indestructible System" - Full Price is filled with practical advice supported by scores of short, pertinent examples. The information and tactics are not revolutionary. Instead, Winninger has developed a comprehensive checklist of strategies to help you guide your company into the future.