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    « November 2006 | Main | January 2007 »

    December 19, 2006

    We Provide Good Service!

    When I ask a reprographer what their competitive advantage is the answer is almost always "service".   If everyone's strength is service then who provides bad service?  From what I have seen service often means showing extreme flexibility to meet the demands of customers.  The problem with this is the more flexible you are the more customers will exercise this flexibility.

    The concern I have for the industry is there is rarely any penalty for exercising the flexibility.  Customers are conditioned to push the limits.

    I believe the industry should be moving towards a model where there are additional fees charged for higher levels of service and maybe discounts given for lower levels of service.

    Great service should be meeting customers expectations and the first part of meeting expectations is setting expectations.  If the expectation you set with your customers is "we will do our best to hit whatever demands you throw our way" then I believe eventually this will work against you.  There should be different fees for different levels of performance.

    The price for FedEx Next Business Morning is higher than FedEx Next Business Day!

    December 14, 2006

    Branding? [No Comment]


    December 13, 2006

    Low Cost versus Solution Providers

    I often hear "we sell solutions" versus cheap printing, but I don't always get the impression that those saying the words understand what becoming a true solution provider means.  The HBR article on competing with low cost providers has an excellent case study.

    Orica a provider of explosive materials for blasting rocks was threatened by low cost competitors entering the market.  A price war ensued.  Instead of continuing the price war Orica transformed itself into a solutions provider.  How did they do this?  They not only sold explosives, but they sent a crew on site to lay the explosives.  They started to provide their expertise advice on how to best implement the explosives.  Before long they were selling broken rock instead of explosives.  At the end of the day that is what their customers wanted anyway.  Explosives were simply a way to get to the broken rock.

    At the end of the day, what is it that your customers really want?  Are you solving a problem or only selling a piece used to solve the problem?

    To be a true solutions provider your focus must be on your customers business, not on your business.

    December 11, 2006

    Blueprinter, Printer or Something Else?

    I have spent the last few days with sales representatives in the commercial reprographics industry.  All have been trying hard to sell technology solutions with varied success.  I heard quite a bit of discontent relating to the branding of our industry.  I'd like to get some more feedback.

    • What do you call yourself when you call on a customer?
    • Do you try to hide the fact that you work for a reprographer to sound more strategic?
    • Have you ever heard a customer use the term "reprographer"?
    • Do your customers call you "a printer"?
    • Is this a positive brand?
    • Do they feel comfortable buying technology from "a printer"?
    • Are there other brands or branding strategies you use to distance yourself from the "printer" brand?

    Please feel free to comment by hitting the "comments" link below.  If you want it to be anonymous say so in the comment.  I will pre-approve the comments and remove names if you desire.

    Love Thine Enemy

    It is difficult to do, but having an altruistic approach to your market will pay dividends.  Restricting your competitors or restricting your customers will almost always back fire.  We try hard at PLP to focus on opportunities that will help customers or help the market.  We operate with an abundance mentality versus a scarcity mentality.

    If you work with a scarcity mentality then "if you get a bigger piece of pie then there is less for me."
    If you work with an abundance mentality then "there is more than enough pie for everyone."

    Tom Peters, management guru, has an excellent blog post on this.