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  June 10, 2011
Who Wants Ice Cream?

 


Last Sunday I went for a bike ride with a good friend of mine.   Over the course of the long ride, we had a chance to talk about the events of the past week.  

I related a story about a recent meeting I had with a large customer of OptiFuse.

A while back, our company was approached by a very good customer to help raise money for a well-known non-profit organization.  After some lengthy discussions, I agreed to make a donation to their cause based on the customer’s annual purchases from OptiFuse.  The greater the amount of purchases the customer made the previous year, the greater the donation in both percentage and total dollars OptiFuse would make to the charity.

As it so happens, I was also aware that the president of company was a collector of Starbuck’s coffee mugs representing various cities from around the world.  Knowing this, I bought a $15 coffee mug for him from the Starbuck’s in Antwerp while on vacation a few weeks ago (knowing that the odds were slim that he already possessed an "Antwerp" mug in his collection).

On Tuesday of last week, I presented both the sizable check (thousands of dollars) and the coffee mug to the company’s president.

He opened the envelope and looked at the check.  He thanked me, shook my hand telling me how much he and the charity appreciated our support, and placed the envelope in a drawer.

I then gave him the coffee mug. 

By the look in his eyes, you would have thought he was a 6-year old boy getting his first bicycle for Christmas.  He quickly took the mug out of the box and ran around the office showing everyone what I brought him.  He then picked up the phone and called his wife at home to tell her about the new addition to his collection.  He must have thanked me 10 times over the course of the next 15 minutes.

On my drive back to my office I replayed the events of the past morning in my head...

Here I had given the man several thousands of dollars for his charity of choice with relatively very little reaction but when I gave him an insignificant coffee mug...he was ecstatic. 

How often do we bombard clients with seemingly valuable materials and/or information that they actually care very little about?...

How often do our engineers create product features that customers really don’t want (or want to pay for)?...

We build an elaborate website that offer very little value to the people who use it.  

The real problem is that we try to sell the same thing to everybody even though we all have different needs, likes, dislikes, wants, desires, fears, hopes, dreams, ethics, favorite colors, and/or value systems.

There are over 6 billion people on this planet, each of us with our own unique perspective...each with our own individual needs.

Long time readers of the OptiFuse blog know that I enjoy reading Seth Godin’s daily blog (click here to go to Seth’s website).  He is a marketer extraordinaire and although I don’t agree with everything he writes, I find his take on marketing to be worth my investment of time each and every day.

Recently, he wrote an article stating the obvious about the goals of marketing (well at least it seemed obvious AFTER reading his article).  He contends that customers pay attention to those things that matter most to THEM...based on what they value...not necessarily what we offer.

Some people believe that top end Mercedes-Benz cars with a price tag over $100K are a bargain, whereas others believe that a car is a place to safely move us from point A to point B and believe that spending that much on a car is a waste of money... It’s all a matter of perspective.

Mercedes-Benz is wasting its time and efforts trying to sell a luxury performance automobile to those people who couldn’t care less about luxury and performance. 

In Seth Godin’s words, we should be concentrating on selling nuts to squirrels not to dolphins...

Mercedes-Benz understands that it manufacturers ultra-safe high performance luxury automobiles.  They market their vehicles to those individuals who understand and value these features.  People looking to purchase the Toyota Prius are not interested in the elements that define Mercedes-Benz.  Their interests may lie in fuel economy, low carbon footprints, and/or hatchbacks.  Those aren’t bad things...just different.

It is mission critical that you recognize who your customer is and what it is that they really want.

The real problem (opportunity) is that most customers really don’t know what it is that they want.  

I vividly recall an actual experience I had on a sales call many years ago.  I was talking with a customer who explained to me that price was their only concern.  As they explained it to me, their top three concerns were price, price and price.

At that point (knowing that my product was not the low-price leader), I explained to the customer that my price would be half that of the competition’s lowest price.  He was amazed and was ready to give me the order...then I told him the bad news...I wouldn’t be able to actually deliver his parts for at least 5 years into the future and when I did deliver the parts...they would not have any UL approvals.

At that point the customer understood that his request for low price only was not the only factor in this particular sale...delivery and quality were also factors that he did not take into consideration...I didn’t get the order (in fact he threw me out of his office for being a smart-ass) but in actuality, he was never really a customer for my product anyway.  He did however realize that price was NOT his only consideration.

Yes, Southwest Airlines generally offers a low-price for a plane ticket, but they also have an incredible safety record, no bag fees, have a great attitude, and have been the leader in on-time performance for years.  I don’t fly with them because of the low price...but rather because they offer me items that I do value.

Conversely, I rarely shop at Wal-Mart.  Yes, they typically have the lowest price in town, but they also have long lines, offer very little product knowledge and sell cheaply made goods (both inexpensive AND cheap).  Not worth the potential savings to me.  

Yes, Baskin-Robbins does sell 31 different flavors of ice cream because not everyone wants vanilla...

...but then again...not everyone wants ice cream...

Thank you for your support of OptiFuse where we hopefully offer you the products and service that you value.


 

Jim Kalb
President
OptiFuse
jimk@optifuse.com


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