Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Your trumpet calls

Yesterday I was doing some shopping and, while waiting for service, I casually read the signs alongside the counter. One in particular caught my eye. Written in red on a white background was an A4 card with the words "HFM only stock Australian product".

Over recent months there has been much in the press about retailers sourcing product from outside Australia. Go to your local butcher, fishmonger, fruit and vegetable vendor, and, especially, your major supermarket chains and the probability is that much of the product is sourced from outside Australia. Many in the Australian community are concerned about this and people such as the entrepreneur Dick Smith constantly exhort us to think about the source of product when we are buying anything.

I'd never seen this sign before - I buy from specialist shops rather than from supermarkets wherever possible because I believe the supermarkets need competition and small local retailers are the best source of this. But the sign still made a difference in my attitude to HFM - it made me feel even more positive towards them.

I looked again at the prices shown in the shop where I was waiting. They were very comparable with those in the supermarket next door - clearly no premium for buying the Australian product. When, a few seconds later, I was served, I commented that the sign ought to be larger and that HFM should make more of this. The person at the counter didn't really seem to understand what I was saying. He smiled and agreed but, today, nothing had changed.

The statement that "HFM only stock Australian product" is a strong marketing claim that sets it aside from its larger competition. It is a critical point of differentiation. Yet it seems to have been made almost as an aside by someone who obviously knows its important yet doesn't seem to know how to make the message stand out.

It set me thinking.

How often do all of us have clear and important points of differentiation yet we either fail to recognise them or we fail to make them clearly and prominently enough. I, for one, am sure that this is an area in which I screw up quite often.

It reminded me of a statement I heard long ago: "If the trumpet doesn't make a clear call, who will get ready for battle?" And also of another statement once heard at a seminar: "if you don't blow your own trumpet, someone else may use it as a spittoon!"

In today's highly competitive environment, whatever goods and/or services we are offering can easily be confused with commodities - the similarities are such that prospective customers/clients bag everything together and, in lieu of clear differentiation, make buying decisions on price or familiarity. This can make things especially difficult for the small operator or for the new entrant to any field.

Points of differentiation should be trumpet calls.

How clear is your trumpet call of what makes you different and why people should buy from you? It needs to be very clear. It needs to be loud. And it needs to be frequent.

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