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Guido
08-24-2000, 01:03 PM
COMPETITIVE DIFFERENTIATION - (Definition by the book) - the unique combination of organizational abilities and approaches that sets a company apart from competitors in the minds of consumers.


This came up in a business class I'm taking (contemporary business management) last night. I thought it might start a good thread and maybe open some peoples eyes to a new idea.

That definition up top basically says, whats your edge over the competition that will make a difference to a consumer.

The important part of that text definition is that its a difference in the minds of the consumers, NOT YOURS!! I wanted to say that first, before I posted the questions.


DO YOU HAVE A COMPETITIVE DIFFERENTIATION ??

WHAT IS IT??

WHAT KIND OF DIFFERENCE HAS IT MADE FOR YOUR BUSINESS ??


I know there are some of ya'll slower guys down south reading this, so I'll give an example:

A pet salon on wheels offers something the one 25 minutes away doesn't, it comes to your house.

(Just kidding about the southern stuff!) :)


Lets hear it boys!!

And by the way these will prob be frequently asked questions.

LAWNSITE.COM is not in itself one, but knowledge gained from here is! So don't say this site.

I know the other one I will hear is quality service, or better service, etc. Thats your view, obviously some customers think the other guy has better service or he wouldn't be in business, right??

Lets get creative, just pretend your Martha Stewart for a minute!!





[Edited by guido on 08-24-2000 at 04:10 PM]

SMB
08-24-2000, 01:17 PM
A good job has set us apart from the competition. We even got a $15 a month raise by doing a good job on a cemetery.

mowohio
08-24-2000, 01:37 PM
A doggy salon on wheels! Now that is a great idea. Another business to bring to the customer. The possibilities: We can groom your pet while we cut your grass.

cos
08-24-2000, 02:55 PM
I am always thinking of ways that i can set myself apart from the other guy, but when I have an idea I have to move forward with it. Like for example, customers(especially residential) want to talk to a person not a promise to get back to them. Thats why when I hire a foreman he or she will have a clue on how to handle people in a professional manner, and not the usual "I'll tell my boss to call you" Of course there are issues that the foreman cant answer, but if he can handle as many as possible (professionally) than it reflects on the business's profession. All landscape companies are gonna try to set them selves apart by the appearance of the lawn after they leave but can they also supply the customer with peace of mind. There are customers that are willing to pay for cutomer service. And just like the old addage, that person is more willing to tell their friends about it too.

richard2
08-24-2000, 03:23 PM
i have blue lawns and in the fall they are purple

AGG Lawn Maintenance
08-24-2000, 03:52 PM
We like to be on a name to name basis with each of our customers. On my businss cards I have my first and last name. I also have a Spec sheet with a detailed list of services,prices and time frames. This is the key to our success!!! The customer is educated on each service,time frame and prices. They have no problem paying because they know up front how much everything costs. When I estimate I give them this spec sheet with the details, time frames and prices.....
Lawn Maintenance Estimate__________
Spring Clean up_______________
Fall Clean up________
Final Fall ___________
Pruning___________
Debris Haul away_________
High Grass cut_________
Snow Plowing 1-3"___________
This way I don't have to keep estimating things.
Travis AG&G Lawn Maintenance
"Keeping One Step Ahead"

SLSNursery
08-24-2000, 04:22 PM
As I think of items that relate to your question, I will post them here. Since there are no (or relatively few) barriers to entry into the lawn mowing field, any services that are provided in addition to the basics start to differentiate you from your competition. By the way Guido, are you going to use our responses to help with your class?

1. Licensing and certification - we are currently licensed in CT for Pesticide application, and as a home improvement contractor - for landscape jobs. I am involved with a trade group that is pursuing the CLT program. Compliance, and evidence of self regulation adds value to your services.

2. Communication - when someone calls our office, someone from our office answers the phone, or returns the missed call as soon as possible. There are still some delays - for instance if a message is relayed, I may not have a chance to return a call (these are usually sales calls though). We work for a lot of commercial interests. We have developed a rapport with the staff from these organizations, and are on a first name basis. This way, when something needs to be done, or the customer wants to bring attention to a problem or missed area, for instance, that customer knows that he isn't just leaving a message, he is actually communicating with a responsible person. This provides accountability for our actions. For instance, I can't just promise a customer that something will be done and then not act on it. There are several jobs that we gained this year because we simply answered a call. At that point, it was easy to get the job and schedule it for 6 or 8 weeks down the road, because our office would keep in touch with the customer to let them know our schedule. Don't get me wrong, there are some people out there who we did not get to, or somehow miscommunicated with, but at least this sort of quality assurance system has helped us and is a step in the right direction. We are also easy to get in touch with - our phone numbers are on all company correspondence, trucks, and literature.

3. Innovation - Don't be afraid to try and buy new products or services for your use, or to offer to customers. You need to stay on top of your game! While we have a clear focus on our core business, we add services to round out the offerings. For instance, we will add equipment to our inventory in order to accomplish tasks that make us Full service. When we put a lawn in for someone, we give them their options and our recommendations for seeding, turf starter pellets, sodding, or even hydroseeding, not just a quick seed and hay job with no discussion. A lot of customers who surf the net find out about the latest products and want to know if you, the service provider are aware of them - this might include seed varieties, plant varieties, new equipment, or even new management techniques.

4. The image - I consider some ideas to be basic - for instance, a company image. When people hire us, our shirts, trucks, letterhead, etc. all match. The logos we use and our 'corporate' image send a clear message about the type of work we do. I think this weeds out some calls for us. Lately we aren't too bothered by people who only want the grass cut a couple of times per month for nothing. Even the cleanliness of the crews and equipment says something. On more than one occasion customers have called because they saw our job and like it, and were able to talk to the crews; they were not intimidated by some scary long haired dude with a cigarette in between his greasy fingers. Just a few minutes ago, a customer complimented me on how clean the shop was (It still has some room for improving though...). He is coming to us because he wants us to provide the same results for him as we have for his friends. He also wants us to work with him because he can see how we keep our own equipment and facility. He wants us to treat his property the same way.

5. Consistency - In all aspects of the term. There are some lawns that I have been cutting every Friday for the past 10-15 years. Other customers sometimes find the guys at these houses because they know we will be there! I have had new customers approach me and compare thier job to others they have seen us on over the years. We do our best to maintain all sites on the same day each week throughout the season without exception. We also have set a goal to maintain all properties at the same, consistent level. I have found that if you have any drop and chops, mixed into a route, maintenance crews might get sloppy on the nicer properties. We also have the same guys on the same machines year after year. They get to know the routes, the trucks, the equipments, the lawns, and the customers.


[Edited by SLSNursery on 08-24-2000 at 08:11 PM]

Toroguy
08-24-2000, 06:41 PM
Personable service.

Reliable as a Swiss watch.

Great Value

Acute Cut
08-24-2000, 09:00 PM
I know this sounds cheesy but i would have to say my friendship. I know every customer by first name. I know thier kids and all thier pets. Every time i see them i ask how thier (insert problem or person here) is doing. They love it.

Dale Carnege said it best. "The number one thing everyone likes to talk about is themselves." AND I LOVE TO LISTEN! My crew knows that i am in the customer communication business. I have told them that if i stop to talk to a customer that they should finish thier duty and then finish mine.

Item #2: A BBQ. Silly hugh? On the 16th of September i am having 90+ families and many other people out for a BBQ. I buy the meat and drinks, they bring side dishs. I stand up and give a speech how they the customer have made my business a sucess and thank you and so forth. It sounds cold here, but i really do mean it. Customers LOVE It. I LOVE IT TOO!

Item 3: I love my job. I say it daily. I am not bound the the clock anymore. I am the freeest (is free-est a word?) person i know. You can tell a difference in someone who gets paid 7$ an hour to cut and hates it, VS a person who just plain ol loves to do it. I love the designs, look, and feel of freshly mowed lawn. Some times we get so busy that we run from job to job and never stop to look at our living masterpieces. Look at em with appreciation and love your work and the customers will notice it too.

(After gloating over your lawns look at Eric's and weep like i do. Thought: Maybe Eric is Airbrushing lawns around houses he takes pictures of. hmmmmm. Just jokin Eric)

Have a good one yall
Acute Cut

Barkleymut
08-24-2000, 09:58 PM
Acute Cut- You've seriously made my day! I love to turn a weed infested crabgrass hole into a fescue thriving green paradise. I love to see a beautiful lawn! Doesn't matter if it's mine or a competitors, a perfectly striped lawn with dark green grass and little to no weeds just makes me want to cry. My buddy who I use as a helper from time to time thinks I'm a nut but I just talk non stop about how some of my lawns are perfect and how I'm going to transform others. I have thought about the picnic idea as well and as of yet have failed to execute on it. Let us know how it goes. I will be curious to see how many folks show up. I now want to mow another yard!