A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world – John Le Carre (Spywriter)
Perhaps you’re a sociable sort of person – someone who goes out and meets customers regularly for a drink and a catch up.
Perhaps you like golf days and sports events and having a good time.
Personally, I’m not good at that sort of thing – which is why reading Simply better: Winning and keeping customers by delivering what matters most by Patrick Barwise and Sean Meehan is a reassuring read – and a novel one.
The unexpected message at the heart of this book is that people don’t do business with you because of the unique and special things you do but because you do the basics better and cheaper than the competition.
That is, actually, a little surprising.
And that’s because we’re all so used to hearing about the Unique Service Proposition or USP.
If you do a business plan there will be a section asking for your USP
A USP is important – but not in the way you think.
We assume that the USP is the reason the customer buys from you – they’re so overcome by the awesomeness of that one thing they can only get from you that they rush to get their money out and sign up with you.
Barwise and Meehan argue that we have this wrong in their short book.
For example, it’s important to interact with your customers.
They find that customers of successful companies and not so successful companies spend around the same amount of time interacting with customers.
The unsuccessful ones, however, spend time socialising while the successful ones get down to business and talk about how the customer is getting on with the service and product.
During execution the successful companies focus on getting the basics right – proving the category benefits that are taken as for granted by the managers in the firm.
The unsuccessful ones focus on the exiting and edgy stuff they have – while the successful companies walk away with the business by doing the core things well.
Successful companies understand what customers need and build that.
The unsuccessful ones build cool stuff and wonder why no one buys it.
Now, you may thing tagging such approaches as successes and failures is a little harsh – you could think of examples that break the rule – and you would be right.
But it’s not hard to realise that people keep buying from you because you deliver the basics they need at a price they’re willing to pay.
Being different matters before they do business with you – being distinctive and having a USP matters when you’re advertising.
It’s not the thing you build operations and execution around.
It’s a simple message really.
Be bold and creative and distinctive in the way you promote yourself.
But when it comes to execution, get the basics right before worrying about frills or extras.
Simply be better.