Last time, Marka the marketer and Zoot the salesperson discussed the importance of “top-of-mind” positioning. This week, the topic is “moving the battlefield away from price.” Remember, fire is just a fancy metaphor for print.Today’s FIRE! Point:
If you’re competing against other companies without moving the battlefield away from price, your printing services are nothing more than commodities. Even though many print buyers pay lip service to low prices, their security depends on reliability, quality and expertise—not price. If you position your business as the safe choice, you will move the battlefield away from price, earn a better margin and develop greater customer loyalty.
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“Is getting a sales inquiry call good enough?” Marka asked Zoot. Marka had propped her sandal-clad feet up on the conference table, and Zoot didn’t relish seeing her ugly toes.
“I think you want me to say ‘no,’” Zoot replied, averting his eyes.
“Of course.” Marka gulped a drink of water directly from her bottle.
“Want to use a glass?” asked Zoot. The stylish salesperson was always mindful of good manners and appearances, neither of which seemed important to his friend Marka, with her tangled mop of hair.
“Nah, I never change my routine when I’m on a roll,” Marka replied, wiping her mouth on her sleeve. “Anyway, Zoot ol‘ pal, competing against other fire companies without moving the battlefield away from price means our products and services have achieved nothing more than commodity status. In commodity product industries, tactics such as regular price specials, ‘loss leader’ pricing, dumping, gimmick marketing, tie-ins, discounting and mega-branding efforts are the weapons of choice.”
“That doesn’t sound like the fire industry to me,” Zoot said.
“Let’s hope not!” Marka cried. “Our business is founded on relationships and trust. If a buyer of fire trusts Fire Enterprises, Inc. (FEI) enough to rest easily after giving us an important order, then our company is succeeding.”
“Talk to me about price,” Zoot said, trying to steer the conversation to the bottom line.
“Over the long run, price is rarely the true motivator driving purchase decisions,” Marka started. “Do buyers scramble for their professional lives when they award jobs to reliable companies? Companies that deliver a quality product on time?”
“Of course not,” replied Zoot. “That’s what you call a good night’s sleep, right?”
“Hey, for a sales guy, you’re not bad at this stuff,” Marka said playfully. “So do companies panic when they lose customers because of poor service, bad manufacturing quality or constantly serving up an outdated product line?”
“Of course,” Zoot scoffed. “Even though most consumers and B2B buyers of fire pay a lot of lip service to low prices, their security depends on reliability, quality and expertise—not price.”
“Brilliant, Zoot! And if we can position our company as the safe choice, we will move the battlefield away from price, earn a better margin and develop greater customer loyalty,” Marka said. “Think of it this way: What’s the cost of a hearth going cold? What if there are children in the household?”
“Cold toes at night,” Zoot started. “Cold breakfast? No light at night for kids to do their homework?”
“There are consequences beyond inconvenience,” Marka continued. “Cold hearths lead to children catching colds, which can lead to more serious illnesses. We can easily say warm hearths contribute to the better health of an entire family!”
“And how can you put a price on your family’s health!” Zoot shouted, banging his knuckles on the knotty oak tabletop.
Marka relaxed a bit. This marketing stuff is going to work.
* * *FIRE! In ActionProcter and Gamble raises prices and profits
Last year, Procter and Gamble responded to a hike in oil by raising prices and rolling out a high-end skin care line. Evidently consumers were willing to pay more for the name-brand products, as P&G saw an 11% increase in annual profits. (http://bit.ly/bGWhir
LAST NOTE: If you’re a printer, loose-leaf manufacturer or finishing company that uses oil-intensive materials, your costs have increased. If the cost of energy affects you, and you’ve done your relationship homework, you may be able to raise your prices too. Next blog: Marketing nuts & bolts begin with a discussion about a Customer Nurture Program.