It’s rare for most traditional manufacturing businesses to have a true product breakthrough and offer something that sets itself apart. The majority of these companies are selling similar product offerings at comparable prices.
And while some of these products might have different features, the core is essentially the same. Think of it this way: One dishwasher brand might offer an additional rinse cycle or be quieter than the dishwasher the competition is selling, but in essence, both still do what they’re supposed to do — clean dishes.
To stand out and set themselves apart, rival companies often end up fighting for sales by reducing their prices or offering incentives. Unfortunately, though, this type of price war ends up being a lose-lose scenario for both the seller and the buyer. When companies condition buyers to look for the lowest prices, they commoditize their products and, in turn, don’t see profit growth. More than that, customers suffer from the resulting lack of innovation.
Making the Wrong Attrition Strategies Right
Many companies utilize an attrition strategy, wherein they solely seek to defeat competitors. But that’s not the right tactic or a smart one. If transactions between manufacturers and dealers/distributors are based completely on price and price wars, that resulting commoditization trickles down through the buyer’s journey.
Because of this, small, incremental improvements in the way manufacturers go about their business won’t be enough to make customers detect a true difference in product offerings — or sway them to make a purchase. To make big changes, manufacturing companies instead have to focus on developing their brands.
Most people want to purchase an item and then share it with their friends and family. They want a product and a customer experience worth talking about and remembering. When the purchase itself is truly an experience, the product stops being a commodity and starts being something that stands apart.
How can companies reassess their sales strategies and move beyond commoditization, then? They have to start with internal branding. Front-line representatives need to be trained to effectively share brand stories and the brand vision to sell the product experience. This is a tactic — unlike attrition — that leverages speed, stealth, and innovation to win over consumers before competitors even see what’s happening.
Building Brand Engagement Internally
As companies grow, they often introduce new products and line extensions to the market at a fast pace. But these rapid-fire introductions are in danger of blending in with all the other products if they aren’t part of a strong brand. Each product launch should communicate a value proposition that connects with customer needs and indicates strong brand alignment across the company as a whole.
These tactics will help you foster brand awareness that will begin to take you from commodity to unique offering:
- Provide consistency. Customers value consistency in brand messaging. So if your value is reliability, make sure everyone in the company knows how to sell and position that value. Build your entire portfolio on that foundation, and you’ll have a strong start.
- Look for voids. Assess each new product offering and line extension to see what void it might fill within your brand story. At the very least, it should reinforce your brand vision. Don’t push out products just to push out products — that’ll just perpetuate commoditization. Know how each new offering is part of what you do and who you are.
- Differentiate the brand. Take a step back and identify ways you want to be different from your competition. Be clear about how you’re different, and highlight those differences as an opportunity to share your story. Ideally, these differences will give you a blueprint to improve the customer experience and differentiate your brand during the purchase process.
As you start to implement these changes and set yourself apart, remember to defend the price you charge. When you offer an exceptional product, service, and experience, you can charge more. Loyal customers will view that extra cost as worth it because what you offer is that much better than your competitors’ commodities.
Your organization has to have a clear brand vision and story. More than that, it has to share that vision along every step of the buyer’s journey and throughout the customer experience. Doing this — and doing it well — will require you to invest time and focus in creating internal brand engagement among all employees from the C-suite to the frontline teams.
Finding and communicating strong brand alignment and your unique value will shift the conversation from commodity to something more value-based. And it will take customers’ views of your product offerings right along with it.