In my line of work, as a small business marketing and branding consultant and trainer, I hear countless good ideas. Almost every day, someone wants to share with me why their new concept is the best thing since sliced bread. Sadly, most of these ideas never turn into a business while the larger fractions of those that do get off the ground don’t last.
Sure, some of the ideas I hear never deserved a chance but many of them are exciting and, if pulled off properly, could be very successful businesses. Why is it that good ideas don’t make it in the marketplace? There seems to be plenty of room in our economy for new innovations, yet most ideas die in their infancy.
This sad truth is confounded by the fact that many mediocre ideas, products, and services seem to thrive. For those of us who always strive for excellence and are always looking for the next big breakthrough, it is heartbreaking to see mediocrity reign. However, I do believe that there is an explanation for this odd fact of business. Further thought and investigation would even go so far as to argue that what we see as a thriving mediocrity is actually excellence at its best.
The problem with great ideas is that we fall into the trap of thinking that our idea will pave the way to success. We believe that because we know that we have the best product or service, people will find out and flock to us in droves. We put all of our attention on perfecting our idea, but we fail to take the time to actually plan and invest in the business.
Companies that thrive with mediocre products actually have a huge advantage over those of us who will live and die on the mountaintop of product quality. You see, companies with mediocre products understand that despite all the talk, business is not about quality: it is about meeting needs. Their products meet their customers’ needs by being affordable, easily accessed, and efficient. These companies understand that a successful business has to be worked at on all fronts. They are not distracted by the shiny newness of their products so they spend time building the business around what they do have.
Don’t get me wrong – I think that we should strive for innovation and excellence but we can’t simply hang our hat on our ideas and think that success will come. We have to take the same approach that our mediocre competitors take and actually build a business around what we have.
Here are three truths that mediocre companies know that we don’t:
# 1. Customer service matters more than product quality
People say that they want quality, but what they actually want is good service. Good service means that employees are friendly and knowledgeable (but down to earth and can speak in layman’s terms) and that products or services are rendered in a timely and accurate manner.
# 2. Customers have to be asked to come back
This is perhaps the most common mistake that people with great quality products make. We believe that people will remember us the next time they are in the market for what we sell. No matter how great our product is, this is simply NOT true. Our customers are bombarded with advertisements and promotions from every direction and, 9 times out of 10, they will do business with the company that stays in front of them. If we want to compete, we have to stay in front of our customers and consistently invite them back.
# 3. Customers will not go out of their way to purchase from you
Whether you have a brick and mortar or a web-based business, we have to understand that convenience and ease of use is one of the number one factors in people’s decision-making process. Here is the real kicker: the less the investment, the more this rings true. If you have a high investment level product, people may be more forgiving, but if you are in the food, hospitality, retail, or service industries, you have to live where your customers can see you and get to you.
There is a real tendency to think that people will travel and/or put up with less user-friendly websites for quality. People have busy lives, and yes, they will choose quality over mediocrity every time they are given the choice, but it is not really a choice if you are too hard to get to or work with.