The Big Idea: Pay attention to client sacrifice if you want to increase your competitive advantage.

In a tight economy where buyers tend to pay closer attention to where they allocate their budget companies, must consider how they add value. Organizations that get this right differentiate from their competition and build client loyalty, leading to increased revenue and profit.

How do you build your competitive advantage? Typically, we think of our product or service. What features do we offer? What are the advantages of these features? And, how does the client benefit?

While these questions are important, the reality is that product differentiation is at best short-lived. Service differentiation can be a challenge as well, as most companies offer similar types of services.

So where do you go to create a sustainable competitive advantage? 

In the book, The Experience Economy: Competing For Customer Time, Attention, and Money, authors Pine and Gilmore assert the next frontier of value lies in the experience your clients have with your company. Better client experience equals a stronger competitive advantage.

(More ideas on Client Experience: The Key To Differentiation and Growth: Client Experience.)

When we talk about customer experience, we often measure things like customer satisfaction. While metrics like Net Promoter Scores are helpful barometers, they may fail to expose the true picture of what it is actually like to be a customer.

In addition to measuring customer satisfaction, Pine and Gilmore recommend we take a different perspective, considering “customer sacrifice.” They define this as, “the gap between what a customer settles for and what she wants exactly.”

Every business transaction includes some level of frustration and friction–sacrifice. When we buy things in our personal lives or for our business, we always make tradeoffs. We sacrifice things because we have to. 

As we emerge from the fog of mass-marketing and enter the era of mass customization, consumers are looking for products and services that fit their needs. This higher level of expectation could be used to your advantage.

What if you could reduce the number of sacrifices your clients have to make? If you could do this, you could create differentiation and build competitive advantage. 

How could you do this? Pine and Gilmore recommend cultivating learning relationships with your clients. The more you learn, the more you can customize your offerings to reduce the sacrifice you ask your clients to make. 

This learning happens inside relationships. Relationships are built from interactions. The more interactions you have with your clients, the more opportunities you have to learn about what they want.

In The Pumpkin Plan, Mike Michaolowicz says that in order to create and sustain relationships with ideal clients (big pumpkins) we need to obsess over what our ideal clients want. In light of the topic of client sacrifice, we might think about our ideal clients need through the filter of what they have to sacrifice to do business with us.

Revenue Growth Podcast guest, Matt Dixon, author of and Effortless Experience, says it this way: “While most companies have for decades been pouring time, energy, and resources into the singular pursuit of creating a replicating the delightful experience for their customers, they ironically missed the very thing customers are actually looking for… the effortless experience.”

What are the benefits of reducing the sacrifices our clients have to make? Pine and Gilmore list the following:

  • Premium Prices
  • Reducing Discounts
  • Greater Revenue per Customer
  • Higher Number of Customers (at lower acquisition costs)
  • Increased Customer Retention

This is a compelling list!

They go on to say: “Companies that systematically reduce customer sacrifice—eliminating the negative cues of the relationship—heighten the experience their customers have when using their goods or partaking of their services, the fulfilling needs left unaddressed by their mass-produced counterparts.”

In Revenue Growth Engine: How To Align Sales & Marketing To Accelerate Growth, I recommend that companies map their Ideal Buyer Experience and Ideal Client Experience. At each stage of engagement, you are challenged to consider what the client is thinking. 

A good follow up question might be to consider what you are asking the client to sacrifice at each stage of the engagement. Then, consider ways to reduce or eliminate the sacrifice, replacing it with delight.

The end result will be true differentiation in a tight economy where buyers may tend to be more selective about their purchases and relationships.

This article originally published on LinkedIn.