Monday, August 06, 2012

The Quality Decision is #10/101 Marketing Secrets from the Serial Entrepreneur

Quality is Job One.  Or is it?

It would be so easy to just come off as trite here.  Hopefully if you are reading the entire series you have come to the conclusion that what I offer is fundamentals, but never trite.  In other words, I'm hoping that they both remind you of what you should be doing, sometimes wake you up to something you hadn't thought about before, but that each and every item has some fresh look to it. 

In this case we have no choice but to be aware of quality every single day.  We might get by with poor customer service for a while without too many direct or serious complaints.  We can certainly wing it for years without any real goals, strategies, or tactics.  Sales and profits can be lukewarm, and we can pay our bills or even do okay, overall.  But quality?  If someone forgets to put the pickles on your hamburger, you're going to complain.  Did the product break or fail to perform as promised?  Returns, bad reviews, and more.  Did the stylist cut your hair too short?  She's gonna hear about it, right?

So, we know we have to be all over the quality issue, BUT!

    A.  What do we do when the market won't pay for that much quality?
    B.  Who does the QC on the QC person?
    C.  Is it possible to over focus on quality to the detriment of speed or on-time?
    D.  Are there markets for "good enough" quality?

So the point I'm trying to make:  Quality is a marketing decision.  Not everyone is going to build the best of any class.  Not every lawyer is going to be as capable as the top in the field.  And the answer to D is yes.  There are lots of customers out there who want to buy the cheapest or the most readily available or from a friendly source, and are perfectly willing to sacrifice some aspect of the purchase to get there. 

When you make a marketing decision to sell a certainly quality of product, you now create a reputation for being in that class.  It will make it difficult, but not impossible, for you to move up or down the ladder. Think Walmart vs Costco. McDonald's vs In 'n Out.

But, you protest, there are commonly good, better, best options in product types made by the same manufacturer or offered in the same retail space.  Absolutely true.  However, you will generally note that the quality of even the good product is still best-in-class for that price point.  The customer has come to expect that even when making junk, this manufacturer makes really good junk. 

Think about it.  Ford used to have a reputation for making junk.  Not good junk.  Just junk.   Even the Lincoln was not seen as being in the same quality class as a Cadillac.   It took them years to overcome that rap.  There was a marketing decision made to change the reputation.  But even during the years when their product was seen as so-so, they still sold millions of vehicles based on looks, speed, gas performance, great commercials, location of dealerships, great salesmen on the floor, or sponsorship of the right drivers. 

Have you made a marketing decision regarding quality of your products or services?  Or have you just ended up where you are without thinking about it?  Should you rethink your quality from a marketing perspective? 

This might even be something that needs to fit your personality. Are you anal or personally more inclined to buy the best. Or do you commonly seek out value. Maybe you are all about brands. Or possibly you are cheap, cheap, and you'd rather buy cheap stuff and replace often. Think IKEA.

Or you might have a history in one type of product or service category. You find it easier to sell top of the line or you are great at finding and selling closeouts - think 99¢ Stores.

Sometimes changing market condition might force a change. The neighborhood might be changing. The type of product or service you are selling might be losing the low end or the high end. The laws may be changing. A new product might come on the market and change everything.  Think iPhone and low end cameras. Being nimble in these types of situations could be the difference between the life and death of your enterprise.

Action steps for Day 10:
  1. Where does your business fit in the quality continuum?
  2. Is that by chance or by decision?
  3. Would you feel more comfortable and think you'd do better if you changed?
  4. Are you forced by market conditions to possibly change your quality proposition?
  5. If you have any thought of changing, check with top staff first.

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