In today’s digital age, business owners have more opportunities than ever — and they’re facing more competition than ever. Your customers can choose from a wide selection of global providers. They also have the luxury of nearly unlimited information to aid the buying process. In this crowded landscape, it can be tough to stand out.
In differentiating an offering from the competition, we often turn to the iron triangle: improving speed, quality, or price. But how can you add more value for your customers when the other guys are also competing at high levels on all three points?
It’s time to think outside the box and take your value proposition to the next level. Here are a few ways to add value to products and services that might work for your business.
Improve the experience
Is your customer experience the absolute best it can be? Unless you’re Disney or Zappos, your answer is likely “no” — and even Disney is still constantly innovating in CX.
Research by Oracle found that nearly three-quarters of senior executives believe customer experience impacts customers’ willingness to advocate for your brand. The reason brands like Disney and Zappos became big in the first place is that they gave fans a reason to spread the word about them.
No matter what you sell, you should always be working to continuously improve your customers’ experience. Foster trust and loyalty by providing customer feedback opportunities and making a focused effort to understand their pain points. There is always more you can do to make the customer experience smoother and more memorable.
To stand out in a crowded market, you must give more than the product described on your website. One way to do that is to provide access to the best information and support for your product.
Too often, high service levels and representative responsiveness end after the initial engagement. Best-in-class companies understand that relationships are built through end-to-end experiences, not just one-off touchpoints. Online healthcare company Nurx includes a full year of unlimited messaging with a medical team with every prescription it fills. This approach adds big value for patients, especially for access to experts like medical and legal professionals, whose consultation is typically not cheap.
Curate a P2P community
Build a peer-to-peer community in which your customers can engage with your products and each other. One brand that’s done this extremely well is Sephora. Its Beauty Insider Community is an online space for customers to ask questions, post photos and reviews, and share experiences with other fans of the beauty retailer. Users can even contact Customer Service within the community.
Develop a community that catches on, and you’ll enjoy one big benefit: You’ll effectively crowdsource your customer service. If people have questions about specific products or need to troubleshoot something, they can take it online to your community forum and have their questions answered by fellow fans.
What if you aren’t ready to host and manage your own forum? Set up one on a site like Reddit, where subdomains called “subreddits” give users a space to discuss a shared interest. Seed it with product questions and blog content to get the conversation going.
For this approach to work, however, you need a standout customer experience. Only dedicated fans will be willing to contribute to and moderate a forum on your behalf. If your products and customer service are truly already at an outstanding level, this is a next step to consider.
Create a loyalty rewards program
Smart business owners know that it’s about five times more costly to acquire a new customer than it is to retain a current one. What keeps your customers coming back for more? Hopefully, it’s your awesome product and outstanding service. But why stop there? Why not share those cost savings by rewarding loyal customers with additional perks?
Many brands have loyalty programs, but only you know which rewards will best resonate with your customer base. Think beyond the buy-nine-get-one-free punch card. Forget things like email newsletters, which customers receive enough of already.
The best rewards programs focus on creating value for the customer rather than simply pushing them to spend more. Members of REI’s “co-op” loyalty program get access to exclusive events, classes, and limited-edition products.
Personalized service is another smart strategy. Those who carry American Express’ Black Card get access to a 24/7 concierge program. Through it, cardholders gain exclusive access to just about any event, restaurant, or shopping experience they can imagine. On the menu is everything from box tickets to sold-out Broadway shows to tables at trendy New York City restaurants.
Take your packaging to the next level
Think about Apple. What’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it the MacBook Pro’s specs or a tech support experience? Or is it the unmistakable aesthetic? Packaging and presentation are more important than they often get credit for.
If you sell a physical product, try to create an experience for your customer every time she makes a new purchase. Does your current packaging truly reflect what your brand stands for? If you’re not sure, it might be time to revisit your packaging with a fresh eye.
What does a memorable packaging experience look like? There are plenty of options: Invest in higher-quality boxes, add colorful tissue paper, or evoke nostalgia with a throwback container. Even 10 years after their initial release, collectors keep an eye out for Coca-Cola’s ornament-shaped bottles.
If in doubt, provide something practical. Who says power cables have to come in a throwaway box? A French designer won a packaging competition simply by wrapping them in cardboard cable ties.
When it comes to standing out in a sea of similar providers, your best bet is to focus on the customer. Make it your mission to understand your customer better than your competitors, and come up with ideas that add value for them. Whether it’s improving your packaging, creating a rewards program, or granting access to product experts, you must continue increasing your company’s value to stay in the game.