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STRATEGY

Want Loyal Customers? Compete on Value, Not Price

Your customers care a lot about factors other than cost. Here's how quality, experience, and consistency can work for you.
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More than ever before, customers are choosing to buy from a company not just because it offers a product with a fair price, but also because that company has good values. 

This is an important market shift and a powerful opportunity for small businesses and start-ups, which often have strong value systems.

Companies with values that match those held by their clients benefit from fierce customer loyalty, and have the possibility to help customers to not only feel satisfied with the product they have purchased, but also to feel positive about the way in which they spent their money. 

Here's three ways the price-to-value shift matters for your company:

The lowest price does not always mean the best value.

Many companies, and especially large ones (think Walmart), mistakenly operate as though the lowest price is always the most important factor in a customer's purchasing decision. Even if this may be the case sometimes, many other factors play roles that are as important or even more so in a buyer's choice.

My company's mission has always been to make the best quality products for the best price. On certain items, this may mean we are not the lowest-priced, and I am okay with that because I know that while the product may cost a little more, the quality is far better than other available choices at the nearest price-points. On occasion, customers have been tempted by a lower price tag elsewhere. But time and again, and in spite of the tough economy in the last few years, even those who briefly tested the waters with competitors returned. And they did so more convinced than ever before that what they cared about most coincides with my company's core value: great quality at a fair price. 

Nothing compares to putting customers first. 

One of the clearest disconnects between companies and customers is the choice to substitute technology and efficiency for customer experience and comfort.

Customers know that when they call Metal Mafia, they can expect to get a live, thinking, caring person on the other end of the line, 11 hours a day. They don't reach a voicemail box, except on the rarest occasion, and certainly no one advises them of our preferred method of contact, because it's how they want to do business that matters. A customer who chooses to order from Metal Mafia is saying that he wants to shop at a company where the staff is available to respond to his questions. He is making it clear that he expects that his purchase, whether small or large, will be treated like the most important sale my company will make that day. He is telling not just my company, but the entire marketplace, that he wants to buy from a company that offers real, old-fashioned customer service.   

Consistency is king.

Consistency says volumes about your company. Frequently-changing pricing structures makes it hard for buyers to calculate their true expenses--and, in wholesale--to price to sell accordingly. At the same time, receiving half-full orders is detrimental to business, too. Customers are left wondering why they did not receive what was offered, and also how they can trust your company to deliver correctly in the future. In the eight years Metal Mafia has been in business, I have never played with pricing, and always been well-stocked. This gives customers the assurance that they can expect the same outcome every time they order, and confirms that, as a company, Metal Mafia values doing business in a transparent way.

Customers are much more than one-dimensional money savers. They want to do business with suppliers who not only serve their needs, by also match their values.

IMAGE: Martin Diebel/Getty
Last updated: Jan 23, 2013

VANESSA MERIT NORNBERG | President, Metal Mafia

In 2004, Vanessa Merit Nornberg opened Metal Mafia, a wholesale body and costume jewelry company that sells to more than 5,000 specialty shops and retail chains in 23 countries. Metal Mafia was an Inc. 500 company in 2009.




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