Monday, December 14, 2009

Exceeding by reducing choices

Beer wall from an #evfn at Whole Foods
Image by evo_terra via Flickr
Given the choice, I think every business would choose to be remarkable. Certainly no one in business wants to provide a bad business experience. But I'm more troubled by those in business satisfied to deliver a staple experience.

Staples are things you have to have, or need on a regular basis. The "general store" of old comes to mind. Competition really didn't come into play, as they tended to be the only game in town. It may not have been pretty to shop in, but they had what you needed. And if they didn't, you probably didn't know you needed it.

Today, businesses in the staple-market compete on one thing and one thing only -- price. Margins are razor-thin. Service and selection are commoditized. Success is measured by volume. Customers are lured in by items offered below cost in the hope that an impulse decision may result in a slightly higher profit item being sold. Some companies have made loads of money this way. Some entire industries operate under this principle. There is a success path here, if that is your true intent.

There exists a direct relationship between choice and staple-ness.

It's hard to offer a multitude of choices and succeed at all of them. It's difficult to try and meet every conceivable need and almost impossible to exceed them all. If you're lucky, you do one or two things really well. The rest? Filler. And those things you don't knock out of the park may be doing harm to your business or your brand.

Consider the restaurant that offers dozens of entrées. Do you go there because the all the food is fantastic? What about any of the food? Chances are, you eat there because it's fast (relatively speaking), decent (relatively speaking), cheap (relatively speaking) and predictable.

Alternately, consider the establishment that is really known for one or two things. Chances are, they offer a more limited -- more exclusive, if you will -- list of items that they kick-ass on. Every. Time. Because of the limited selection, they can also be fast enough and (relatively) affordable. But these places offer a product that is far above decent. Predictable? Only to those who are regulars, and they often drag their friends along just to see the look on their faces when they taste something truly remarkable.

Those same rules apply to almost any small business or entrepreneur. Focus on that which you do better than anyone else. While it's hard -- if not stupid -- to turn away business, understand the possible risk if you fail to not just meet, but exceed your customers' expectations.

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2 comments:

  1. Having a tight focus and excelling in that area connects you with customers who want what you have, and are interested in the best person who can provide it.

    As the saying goes, "The fox who chases two hares will lose both." Or as the other saying goes, "Mmmm.... beer."

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  2. Though the former is more relevant to the matter at hand, it's difficult to dismiss the wisdom of the latter.

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