Editor's Note: As part of Marketing Month, we're revisiting some of our best, and most importantly timeless, articles of marketing advice.

Sam Geist’s advice to remodelers working in a transitional market is simple: Define your differentiator and exploit that differentiator. In today’s market, filled as it is with too much of everything, business owners must find a way to stand out. “Service, value, and quality are entry-level tools in today's business climate,” the keynote speaker told the audience at the 2013 Remodeling Leadership Conference in Washington D.C. last week.

If a business uses price to drive leads, that product or service becomes a commodity and the lowest price will win — and there is always someone out there to beat that price. The old benchmark of meeting customer expectations is no longer valid; remodelers must create value and exceed expectations. “Value is a deliverable, action, or process that customers are willing to pay for,” he pointed out.

Geist, who is president of consulting firm Geist & Associates, was the owner of The Outdoor Stores, a national sporting goods chain that he grew into a business with annual revenue of $40 million dollars. He is the author of Execute … or Be Executed, and Why Should Someone Do Business With You … Rather Than Someone Else?

Three Issues

Customers today are dealing with three issues: stress, time, and trust, according to Geist. Your differentiator should help relieve one or all three of these issues for your core customer group. For example, a 35-year-old busy mom will spend money to save time. However, those in the 65+ retired demographic will spend money on things that help them fill their time. 

The key is to know your customer, and to then ask yourself what you can do to make it easier for that customer to do business with you. Geist offered a bag of lettuce as an example: busy consumers are willing to pay the high 88% margin on a bag of pre-washed, cut lettuce versus buying a whole head of lettuce because they see the value in the time it saves them.

Five questions, suggested by Geist, that owners should ask themselves to help define their company differentiator:

  • How does your customer see you?
  • Where does your core business lie?
  • What is your core competency?
  • Would you buy from you?
  • How do you grow?

Remodelers should use the answers to these questions in the opening conversation on every sales call.
It’s after you define that differentiator, Geist said, that you’re faced with the toughest question: Are you delivering on that promise? This is where strategy and implementation intersect, Geist said, and offered a quote from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz: “Execution gives us the license to expand the brand.” Executing your promises correlates to longevity and profitability. This execution requires leadership skills and building and training a team of leaders that are engaged and will help you deliver that promise.

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