Tag Archives: value proposition

I’m Mad as Hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

By Jeff Bowman

Unique selling point, differentiation, value proposition and customer satisfaction are all terms  common to sales and marketing professionals.

In an environment where we are easing out of a recession, consumers clamor for value in whatever they buy. Hard earned dollars are spent  on products and services that offer a good value in return.  Coupons are clipped and used more frequently, percentages off retail price or in simpler terms an actual cash value discount are offered more frequently to entice  customers.  In consumer items, it is value in terms of cost per unit or serving.

Good business owners know and understand this, and in most cases respect the power of the consumer to understand, compare and make the value call when it is time to purchase.

Why then is it that we as consumers are constantly being mislead by the large corporations that produce  food and health products that we use every day?  I am exasperated each time I pick up a product where the package size has been changed, reshaped, remolded, or made environmentally friendly – a ploy to downsize contents.  Wake up consumer!

The marketing spin that corporations use in an effort to disguise a lower value offering is ridiculous.

Now I am from the generation that believed a person could simply put a mask over their eyes and become a super hero. “Who was that masked man?” In fact as it was pointed out to me yesterday Clark Kent was disguised only by reading glasses.

I can see through the spin.

When ice cream went from a round 2 litre bucket, to a square tub, that made sense because it fit in my freezer better. What didn’t make sense was that the contents were then reduced to 1.5 litres for little or no price change. Cereal boxes have gone from the large family size to pint size boxes that hold no more than 5 or 6 bowls of cereal.  But they did it for me because now it stays fresher!

Yesterday I lost it. I bought Minute Maid Orange Juice.  It seemed different somehow.  When I got it home, I saw the difference when I put it in the fridge next to another juice can. 330 ml, has now become 295ml.  A 10% difference!  Pennies right, who cares? Consider that you add 3 cans of water to the concentrate to make the juice to drink. Now you are down 140 ml of juice.

It didn’t stop there.  I went to my local sub shop that advertises $5.00 footlongs, to ease my hunger pangs.  I measured that sub when I got home.  10 inches! 2 inches less than what they advertise. Enough to inspire sub envy in any man! Should I have taken it back?

The examples are endless today. Is it okay to give your boss 15% fewer work hours for the same salary? Is it okay for athletes to perform at 15% below the previous year? Why don’t schools drop the pass average to 41% instead of 51%?

I just don’t get it! In an age where the Internet can influence the masses in mere minutes, why do corporations continue to dupe us with decreased value offerings? The answer is, the majority of us do nothing.

Don’t you think you have a right to speak up when you get cheated? Business ethics dictate that companies offer customers the best value for their dollar.  Those that do should prosper, those that don’t should hear about it.

I can’t hear you!

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Filed under advertising, Customer Service, Jeff Bowman, Marketing, Sales

At what cost Air?

By Jeff Bowman

There are some levels of customer service that can’t be breached.  Sacred.  One of the last bastions of free extra value has gone the way of the Dodo.

I am fortunate enough that I grew up in an era where an oil check, windshield wash and hockey stickers were the norm with every gas fill up. “Can I check under the hood” was a familiar phrase that was heard as the smiling attendant approached the window.

If you are old enough to remember the Esso Power Player sticker series, then you are in my age bracket.  Picture yourself pulling into a gas station today where first of all the attendant is in a uniform and cap, then he checks your oil, cleans your windows, and gives you a free bonus when you pay.  It could have been a glass, a sticker book, gas cap tiger’s tail, whatever, it was free and it kept my parents going back to the same station over and over.

Times sure have changed in customer service.  Today you pump your own gas, walk into the cashier and pay, then walk out sometimes without even a simple thank you. You can check your own oil, or not, and you count your lucky stars first of all if there is clean water in the washer bucket and second if the washer itself has any foam left on the cleaning side.

Today was the ultimate value squeeze for me.  I have always gone to a certain gas station to fill up, partly because they still have free air for my tires.  Yes, free air!  Today I went to use the air and to my horror it wasn’t free.  It was $1.00.  I understand paying for suction to clean your car, but a service like providing air to fill up a low tire.  That is going too far.

Consumer’s have a right to value for the products and services they buy.  In a competitive market place, a company’s value proposition is often what creates and maintains brand loyalty.

Well it seems in a marketplace where price is essentially the same, service becomes an additional cost. And even without service, the oil companies prosper. We all have to fill up somewhere if we want to drive. It just doesn`t seem fair that this multi billion industry profits year after year, while services continue to be cut.

Imagine if that happened in banks – no tellers, high service charges and, wait that might be a bad example.  Imagine going to a grocery store where you had to scan your own items, bag your own groceries and, I guess that’s also a bad example.

When will the big wheel of service levels roll back to the consumer’s side? I predict it won’t be too long from now. Consumers need to take note of where they still get value, and let the owners know that it is still appreciated.

Isn’t it strange that when I was growing up the place where you went for gas was called a “Service Station”!

What reductions in service levels have you up in arms?

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Filed under Branding, Customer Service, Jeff Bowman, Sales

The Warranty, a sign of a good business

By Jeff Bowman

With every product comes some form of a warranty, whether it is expressed or implied, limited or unlimited. However the mere existence of a warranty means nothing if the company who made, sold or traded the product does not back it up.

I used to attend auctions many years ago and the auctioneer always began the auction with “all products sold here tonight are, as is, where is, no warranties, guarantees, written or implied” I knew that what I bought was totally my responsibility, and “to the buyer beware” (Caveat emptor)

The legal ramifications and laws of accountability are usually pretty straight forward, and that is why every product you buy comes with a written warranty, and you can probably recite most of the conditions off by heart, product covered for parts and labour and manufacturing defects for a period of 90 days etc.  These conditions are usually followed up with the manufacturers CYA conditions, which often tend to make the warranty difficult to apply when you need to :

” the following are not covered under warranty: – accidental damage, neglect, misuse, maintenance, damage caused by exposure to an improper environment, including, without limitation, excessive temperature or humidity, unusual physical or electrical stress, failure or fluctuation of electrical power, lightning, static electricity or fire, damage caused by service or modification or alteration of hardware by anyone other than us”

Blah blah blah.

It is like the old George Carlin narrative about the used car warranty, “once you drive it off the lot, if it breaks in half you get to keep both halves!”

Good companies stand behind their warranty, with few questions asked – a satisfied customer is their primary objective. That is how brand loyalty is built.

This past weekend my barbeque began to spew flames out the sides of the burner element.  I had replaced the original element 4 years ago with a universal element from Canadian Tire, it had a 5 year manufacturer’s warranty.  I had saved the warranty sheet with the receipt stapled to it all these years in my file box. To get a new burner I had to have the original receipt, check, the original warranty, check and  return it to a local distributor, a phone number was listed to call.  I called, and the line was disconnected.  So I took a quick trip to the distributor, about 2 miles away.  Not there anymore.

Well, I thought I would try my luck at Canadian Tire.  I explained my dilemma, and the manager called the listed number, hung up and approached me and said. “Well it looks like we’ve got a problem.  It’s our problem since we sold you the burner, go get another and we’ll just replace it. We have to stand behind our products.”

There was a thud as my jaw hit the counter. That was it. As simple as that.  That is a company that respects their supplier customer relationships. No hassle, no questions, big smiles all around. I know for sure that I can trust the implied warranty from this store.

How do you fare when it comes to warranties on your products or service, and do you display testimonials from your satisfied customers as part of your marketing mix? There is a lifetime warranty on a valued customer.

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Filed under Branding, Customer Service, Jeff Bowman, Manufacturing, Marketing, Sales

Where can I find a new Merlin?

By Jeff Bowman

The day finally arrived, without much fanfare or celebration, but an old friend has been put to rest. Merlin had performed admirably, and when I say admirably, it may be an understatement.  We first took possession of Merlin back about 1986, and even then I didn’t expect much in the way of performance. Merlin, you see was an old 17 cubic foot freezer that had been left by the previous occupants of the house, and greeted us when we moved in.

It was about 15 years old at the time, had been very well used judging by the scratches and buzzing and whirring sounds it made.  I had figured on moving it outside to be picked up on large garbage pick-up day, when I had the opportunity.  There were many more important things to do in our new house.

Months went by, and soon we were filling that Merlin freezer with specials I found on sale at Dominion and Food City.  A few years later my son was born and the freezer stayed put.  Another couple of years later with two sons in tow we moved to a new house, and Merlin came along for the ride. That damn freezer with all its energy inefficiencies, and strange sounds, has continued to operate perfectly with the odd defrosting , and even a new paint job. Merlin far outlasted my expectations.  At 38 years of age he has finally come to the end of the line.

I have opted for an energy-efficient stand up fridge by Frigidaire.  It will hold a little less, and probably make less noise, and not generate as much heat from the motor.  My expectations are high for both performance and durability. If all goes well, I will be in my late 80’s when this model has to be replaced!

Yeah right!  I was asked by the clerk if I wanted to purchase an extended warranty to supplement the existing 3 year warranty. I told him about old Merlin and his response was, “well they don’t make em like they used to”.  Merlin was older than the sales guy who sold this to me. I’m now left scratching my head.

Manufacturing processes have improved dramatically in the last 40 years. The environmental concerns have been growing for many, many years. If the salesperson knows the products today are inferior, and he is telling me they are inferior, and I’m telling you that he told me, why the heck aren’t we doing anything about it?

Has anyone had a 5 year fluorescent light last 5 years? Have you had to replace a mattress before the 20 year tag on the bottom? Call me stupid, cheap or old-fashioned, but I’m proud to say my G.E. Television is 20 years old, my Eaton Viking Stove even older.

Quality and durability need to be brought to the forefront of the consumer’s buying decision again.  A value proposition must include the cost over the sustainable life of the product. Until it does, there will be no more Merlins! R.I.P.

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Filed under Environmental, Jeff Bowman, Manufacturing, Sales, Sustainability

We have a value winner!

By Jeff Bowman

Businesses probably spend more time than they should trying to figure out  their value proposition.

We are bigger, stronger, softer, cheaper, more improved, greener or care more about our customer.  You have heard all the motherhood statements time and again. Differentiation is tough in a marketplace with a myriad of competitive products to choose from.

My criteria for value is quite simple.  Do you fulfill the customer’s needs totally and to their complete satisfaction with your product or service? Anything less will lead to grumbling or worse,  a formal complaint. The customer will defect to competitor and spread the word far and wide about their experience with your product or service and company. Yes, your product does indeed represent your company and anything else you market.

Value winnerExceeding the customer’s expectations, on the other hand, creates real value! I purchased a couple of products more than two years ago for a  trip I was taking. One was a travel-sized can of Gillette Shave Cream for .99 cents and the other a small canister of Blistex for $2.19.  Now I have to admit that I felt I was overpaying for the Blistex, it was so small, and in my mind I didn’t think it would last as long as the much cheaper lip balms, however peer pressure led me to the decision (as it often does). Now it must be said that I only use the Blistex in cooler months and the Shave cream on trips and weekends at the cottage.

This past Sunday the last of the shave cream limped from the dispenser. The small red can now finds itself in recycling. The Blistex lives on.  Not in my wildest imagination would I have thought I would have either of these products two years later. That is satisfaction, I am impressed, my expectations have been greatly exceeded by these products. That is value!

I’d love to know your definition of value, and where you have found it.

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