Comfort and value keep customers during economic recovery
By Eric Bauer -- Casual Living, 10/1/2009 12:00:00 AM
This one is for the manufacturers. Or perhaps today you are an importer and marketer of furnishings for the home, hotels and resorts. Whichever is the case, it’s safe to say that you have survived the longest business downturn in your company’s history. To you I say congratulations, because surviving these past two-plus years has been no easy feat.
Like the rest of us, you have watched our government bail out a select few manufacturers in the auto industry, the auto industry as a whole with the 'cash for clunkers’ program, and many more in the banking and financial industry. You, on the other hand, who have so desperately tried to keep as many people as possible on your staff working, probably have done more than wonder where your “stimulus plan” is and when it will be delivered to your corporate offices.
By now I hope you realize that it is not coming. Not by UPS, nor Fed Ex, nor USPS, nor wire transfer. It’s not coming. At least it is not coming from any source outside of your own creativity and willingness to do what it takes to move merchandise.
If you’re an importer, my question is: How is your in-stock position?
If you’re actually manufacturing stateside, you certainly have more control over your destiny, because you are more likely sitting with raw materials rather than finished goods in stock. Somehow or another you have to move those goods or craft them and move them. And you need to do it for the cash flow. Think sustainability!
For more than a decade I have worked with several manufacturers/importers and consulted with their management on a daily basis. The last 18 months I consistently shared that the goal for them was to stay on their feet, stay alive and be in a position to regain profitability when business picks up again. You are not the only one who needs a stimulus plan. So do your customers. Think differently about your inventory costs and think more about increasing the value you can pass on to your customers so that they in turn, can pass more value on to the consumer.
It is the consumer who will be responsible to bring us out of this recession. Those in the supply side of the business also need to employ the best “E_Smarts” they can to locate those trade customers who will take advantage of their spectacular offers, designed to move merchandise out of your factories and warehouses, into the retail stores and into the homes of America.
I just started reading a terrific book by Harry Beckwith titled “What Clients Love,” and early on I have gleaned some profound, albeit logical information. Let me share this excerpt: “Ask loyal clients of any company why they remain loyal, and they will give one answer more than all others combined. Do they mention excellence, quality, skill or price? Not often. They answer 'comfort.’ In this age of so many choices and messages, with trust declining and mobility and opportunity splitting communities and family connections apart, and with so many of our choices involving things we cannot see or inspect, today’s client feels uniquely uncomfortable. This means clients crave comfort more than anything. … A familiar name and brand makes people comfortable; they feel more confident with a known name and brand.”
Today’s consumer is more cost-conscious than even a few years ago and they’re not comfortable without getting a deal (spelled: D-I-S-C-O-U-N-T) from their local retailers. That’s your customer who is looking for vendors with whom they feel comfortable and ones that provide them terrific values, which they can pass on. Here are a few more words that Beckwith says comfort clients: expertise, clarity, integrity, selflessness and passion.
Measure yourself and your management to those lofty attributes and see how you stack up. Beckwith says we admire excellence and envy superiority, but it is simple comfort that captures and keeps us. I’ll close with his words, “Comfort clients and you will keep them.”
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