Do you project a local image so customers can better relate to you?

When my wife and I first moved to southern California a few years ago, she told me about shopping in a “California supermarket.”  She raved about their selection and fresh vegetables, and said she was going to be a new, loyal customer of Ralph’s.

  • She didn’t like it when I told her she was, basically, still shopping at Kroger’s.

As someone who grew up in a family grocery store, I was interested to note the announcement earlier this week that Kroger had acquired legendary grocer Harris Teeter.  And, even more interestingly, Kroger CEO David Dillon said, ““We’re not going to come in and change these stores into something people won’t recognize.  These are going to be Harris Teeter stores, and they’re going to stay Harris Teeter stores.”

With good reason — Harris Teeter has something to teach Kroger, according to Dillon: “[Harris Teeter has] a stronger fresh reputation, and by fresh I’m really referring to all the perishable departments, than some of the Kroger operations,” Dillon says in the New York Times. “Our intent is to learn from them, ‘How do they get that reputation? What are some of the things they do that create that?’ It won’t be as much, I think, in the actual products as in the methods by which we get the products to the market.”

However, Harris Teeter also has VERY loyal customers.  For Kroger to come in and paste their logo over a place where customers have been consistently shopping for many years won’t enhance sales or customer commitment.  So, just as they do with Ralph’s, Fry’s, Food4Less, and more…customers won’t even know, in most cases, that they are shopping at Kroger’s.

  • What does this have to do with you?

It raises this question: What are you doing to be closer to your customers?

Are you projecting some kind of “local” commitment?  The “local” aspect could be geographic.  However, in today’s hyper-connected, online world, “local” could mean a speciality in a niche market that a select group of customers and prospects are passionate about…or, perhaps it could be a specific skill or service that appeals to a market segment.

The point is that the Kroger lesson teaches a very important aspect of business that is easy to overlook in our desire to grow:

Being perceived as “local” — in other words, highly engaged in a local community…whether that’s geographically or interest-based — is critical in creating distinction in a crowded marketplace. 

Final side note:  What made you distinctive in the past won’t guarantee you remain unique.  According to Marketing Daily, the Charlotte Observer’s Ely Portillo wrote, “The company says an early Harris store that opened in 1949 was innovative for the time, in offering air conditioning and staying open until 9 on Friday nights.”

How are you innovating to continue to create distinction?

Are you providing these three essentials for sales in today’s economy?

The Center for Media Research has a report today on a study just issued by Forrester Research, with a fascinating point:

“Customers now control the buying process far more than today’s vendors control the selling process.”

StandOut1It also states that, given the easy access to information from the Internet and the ability to use smartphones and tablets to acquire that knowledge, many companies and their marketing teams are struggling just to keep up.

The study offers three essentials for growing sales in today’s economy:

  • A customer-obsessed approach to defining the business and marketing strategy;
  • An in-depth understanding of customers’ behaviors and needs;
  • A customer engagement strategy that is calibrated to those behaviors and needs.

If you think about it, what the study is saying is, in essence, what I was advocating when I initially wrote the first of the “Distinction” books — and emphasize in “Create Distinction.”

  • Clarity — you have to have a clear strategy and approach that differentiates your products and services
  • Creativity — create a single, unique point of distinction that provides competitive space for you in the marketplace
  • Communication — craft a compelling story that — from the customer’s perspective — develops engagement and emotional connectivity
  • Customer Experience Focus — be obsessed about what it feels like to be your customer, and deliver an “Ultimate Customer Experience ®.”

By the way, two other critical points from the study, quoting the report —

“This changing buyer dynamic changes the role of marketing in several fundamental ways:

  • Marketing owns a bigger chunk of the “selling process.” Guiding the buyer through the early stages of the buying process (traditionally the role of sales) requires an outside-in approach, calibrated to the buyer’s wants and needs, shifting the focus from content that details features and benefits to engagement that informs, persuades, and convinces.
  • Marketers must engage consistently over multiple channels.  According to the study, B2C marketers are much more prepared than B2B marketers to engage multi touch-point customers with a multichannel approach. 69% of the B2C marketers reported that they were either mature multichannel practitioners or were transitioning to that state. Among B2B marketers, only 59% indicated a similar level of maturity.”

Has your marketing and the intensity of your customer engagement evolved to the level that you can sell and serve today’s customer effectively?  Can you deliver an Ultimate Customer Experience ®?

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