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Are You Creative or Competitive?

by Lisa

My grocery store sells dried up, rotten corn. Not a creative way to keep customers!

A war is coming to my town. A grocery war that is. It makes me ecstatic, not about the war, but the fact that a decent store is opening up within 20 miles of my house. I come from the birthplace of Whole Foods, Austin, Texas, where almost any grocery store is a great one. Why? Because customers expect it.

The upcoming war here got me thinking about some of the current stores. In the last 6 months, in anticipation of Wegmans moving in, other stores are making improvements. Getting better produce, keeping the store clean, upgrading inventory. All because Wegmans is moving into their territory! What this tells me is: you don’t care about me, the customer, you just care about the competition.

My question to these current businesses is:

Why didn’t you upgrade your business a year ago? Or 2 years ago?

The reason is simple. These businesses didn’t focus on the customer. They were not creative and didn’t give the customer what they wanted.

They were reactive. And defensive. All they think about is the competition.

Forget the competition! It doesn’t matter. Most of these stores will never have the cache of a Wegmans orĀ  Whole Foods. But, if they paid attention to their customer, instead of focusing on being competitive, they would keep more of their customers. What matters is your customer. Period.

Are you creative or competitive in your business?

How much time do you spend worrying about what your so-called competitors are doing? It’s wasted time and emotion.

Your focus needs to be on improving the experience for your customer. What does your customer want? What do they need? Give it all to them.

Make it all about the experience.

A few years ago a small local business, Treaty Oak Bank, opened up in my neighborhood. Of course, there were already branches of big banks on almost every corner. How did this small bank not only succeed, but thrive? They were creative and provided the customer with the very best service.

When I walked into the bank for the first time, something weird happened: everyone looked up from their desk and said, hi!” I looked around for a bank of tellers, but there were no tellers! I was invited to have a seat at a banker’s desk, and she took care of my deposit. It was hot outside (Texas!), and she directed me to the chilled bottled water. And next to the water were big chocolate chip cookies! Everyone was nice and helpful. I left the bank without having to stand in line, everyone was friendly, I stayed hydrated and got a cookie! It was a great experience!

It didn’t cost them a lot of money. The bank was creative in their approach to customers. Everything was customer-centric. Not what you find at the big banks, which is why this bank has been so successful.

You can emulate this approach in your business.

6 Ways To Get Creative in Your Business

  1. Ask your customers what they like and don’t like about their experience with you.
  2. Ask your prospective customers what they want.
  3. Have brainstorming sessions with everyone in your company.
  4. Use the mind mapping process to get out ideas.
  5. Change your mindset to accept all ideas — doesn’t mean you have to implement them, just accept them.
  6. Focus on giving your customer the very best experience.

How do you get creative in your approach to customers? Please share!

By the way, a good coach can help you put creativity in your business!
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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Adeline Rem August 24, 2011 at 10:46 am

This is a fabulous article. As a business owner, sometimes we lose sight of the main focus of our business! To bring joy and happiness to our clients! I am going to call every single one of them up (and there are thousands) in the coming weeks and ask them how their experience could have been improved. For their time, I am going to give them a discount voucher too!

It is a great idea to get your staff to open up. One of the ladies that worked in the kitchen was shy and didn’t speak up until I sat the team down and asked how they thought that I can improve my company. It was really eye opening and ended up saving me money! Also, now, they are clear about my dreams and aspirations for delivery too.

Do you think that it is best to mind map on paper or digitally?

Lisa August 24, 2011 at 7:02 pm

I like to mind map on big paper first, using lots of colored markers, squiggly lines and making what looks like a big mess! But, of course, it’s really creative brainstorming. After I’ve had a chance to sit with it for awhile, I then map it on the computer and print out a real pretty mind map.

Kudos to you for getting input (and listening) from all levels of your staff. As you experienced it was a real bonus for your company — and it also helps the staff satisfaction as well. It also shows you aren’t letting your ego get in the way of your business!

Thanks for your comment!

carol barker August 26, 2011 at 10:29 am

Great article, Lisa! In these turbulent times we must listen to our customers and in the professional services business at least, provide them true value-add – for me, both my clients and my candidates must enjoy the experience (in executive recruiting) – NOT always easy!

Can’t wait for Wegmens!

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