When Little “p” Becomes More Important Than Big “Q”- A Race To The Bottom

Growing up, my family didn’t have much money, so every purchase we made needed to count! Quality of the merchandise was frequently the deciding factor for the purchase. Often, purchases were viewed as, “the better it is, the less frequently we need to replace it”. The Levi’s Co. used the slogan:

and Ford Motor Co. let you know regularly:

Once there was a time when companies took pride in the quality and performance of their products. They focused less on being known as the cheapest, and more on being the best. We valued having goods and services that met our quality standards, then our price constraints. We wanted to know at the end of the day, we could be proud of the purchase we made.

So what happened? We started seeing more advertisement that looked like this:

Our culture, especially during economic downturns, became enchanted with getting stuff cheap. More companies started farming out their production to countries that didn’t have the same labor standards we have domestically, and focused less on customization or quality and more on “One size fits all”. Due to the slashing of prices, businesses focused less on having, the best people making the best products, to focusing on the bottom line and growing their market saturation from ideal customer(profitable) to all customers(low margins). Businesses began finding the cheapest and quickest way to sell. All to often, in order to do so, expertise/product knowledge and customer experience was sacrificed to provide the cheapest price. When the little “p” became primary, the big “Q” was just too expensive to sustain in their new marketing strategy. Customers quickly became desensitized to quality and therefore, adopted the opinion of “they all suck, buy the cheapest one”.

Sales people and marketers were given the ability to be less skilled and replaceable. The salesman could talk to 10 customers and provide the lowest price to get a deal versus, find 10 customers who understand the value of your service and expertise, to buy at an acceptable margin. Many marketers have changed their overall approach with businesses to a one size fits all mentality of market saturation, holding onto the value of, there are no bad customers. In the online age, businesses are fighting for “clicks” and “views” versus profitable sales. As business owners, we’ve become accepting of lower conversion rates to sales and less focused on the quality of the sale.

Now don’t get me wrong, everyone likes a deal on readily accessible products! We all have at some point searched for reputable product “A” on the big online jungle stores in an attempt to get the best price possible. Usually, when I have done this, I have complete confidence that the product I am buying is exactly what I need and I have confidence in the form and fit being exactly the same as what I have bought in the past.  When purchasing on price I have lowered my expectations of the product/service’s purchase terms, performance, durability and long term support. I expect that there will be issues and in order to find a solution to those issues I will be forced either into the bottomless phone system or an online chat with a robot! But, when it comes to something that has to be right, perform at high expectation or ensure an event or milestone need is not an embarrassment, I’m going to focus on the quality and spend as much as I can afford to get it right!

As a small company in the chauffeured transportation industry, I’m proud that I provide a high quality product to my clients and do not focus on being the lowest price. As a small business owner, I focus on acquiring the right clients that match my long-term business strategy. I don’t want anybody looking for car service, but instead, those who match my most successful client profile who desire a trustworthy partner. I understand their needs, demands and expectations. I know what attributes they are looking for in a chauffeur/concierge and I work diligently to recruit the best talent available to provide these services. The right customers understand the costs of providing consistently excellent experiences and are willing to buy from you without the expectation of being cheaper than the other guy, as long as you continue to provide them with excellence.

In closing, here are 8 suggestions on how to recreate an emphasis on the big “Q” and ascend to the top:

  1. Be laser sharp in your marketing, know your ideal client and commit operationally to serving that client
  2. Don’t compete with businesses that are outside of your expertise. Be the best at what you do and don’t try to be all things to all people.
  3. Hire the best people out of desire. Don’t hire out of need. Know your growth projections and begin your hiring process early. Don’t get trapped into hiring people that don’t meet your quality expectations because you need them now.
  4. Don’t wait for the perfect clients to find you. Research where to find them and develop partnerships with other businesses that rely of closely matched demographics. 
  5. Market your business daily to “pretty” clients. Ask existing clients if they would be willing to introduce you to like minded friends. 
  6. Be a sales professional. Ask questions to understand client desires and history. If they fit your ideal client demographic, explain to them the value of YOU. If they don’t fit your expectations have three potential referral companies at the ready to help the client out finding what they need. I’ve actually had some positive results by doing so and won over ideal clients who were playing hard to get in initial conversations.
  7. Live up to your promises and do what you say. Nothing burns a bridge with high value clientele than being complacent and insincere. 
  8. Create an environment of positivity and attention to details.