Make Delivery Your Differentiator
Logistics is a powerful and often overlooked tool for differentiating your products from your competitors' products, and can put you way ahead of the pack.
You Have to be Different to be Noticed
Every peacock needs to know how to strut his ornamental stuff, and so also with businesses that are trying to sell their products in the face of stiff competition and the flashing missives that continually reverberate through the marketplace. Getting themselves noticed, either for the peacock or the businessperson, requires a variety of techniques. Some go for the magnificent plumage of packaging and marketing to separate themselves from the flock, while others use the physical characteristics of product differentiation to show that theirs is a superior and more valuable offering.
One technique that peacocks use to show their superiority to their competitors, that businesspeople often overlook, is in developing from the “what it is” level of the product itself to the “how it moves” level of getting it into the customer’s hands. Despite their physical beauty, peacocks back up appearance with action in a number of ways – spreading and shaking their feathers as well as going through an elaborate dance as they focus on their “customer”. Businesspeople benefit by thinking in the same way – I’ve done the best I can with my products and how they appear, now what can I do about how they move? In business, of course, product movement refers to how the products get from the seller to the customer.
Putting the Marketing & Logistics Sides Together
Marketing being much sexier than logistics, the marketing activity surrounding a product often takes priority over logistics considerations. For many products, reversing these roles or at least giving movement a significant role in product activities can actually enhance the marketing effort and the success of the product in the marketplace. Small or mid-size companies that sell to other businesses can learn from approaches such as a supply chain for liquids methodology in which reducing or eliminating the packaging altogether actually enhances the product’s value to the customer. Under this approach, product is delivered directly to the point at which the customer will use or dispense it, such as a holding tank at the customer site. The benefits of such an approach accrue to both the producer and the customer – the producer saves packaging costs that are often a significant part of total product costs, and the customer gets the product in ready-to-use form that eliminates the need for storing in a stockroom or handling for receiving, holding, or issuing. Innovate logistics techniques are described in more detail in “Supply Chain for Liquids®: Out-of-Box Approaches to Liquid Logistics” published by CRC Press. These techniques use the movement of product as an additional method to differentiate it from competitors’ offerings.
Figuring Out How To Move the Product Effectively
Most businesspeople consider distribution or logistics techniques only after they already have the product and all its aspects such as packaging fully defined. Although many would consider it a tail-wagging-the-peacock technique, taking logistics into account early in the product lifecycle is a valuable step to achieving true differentiation based on logistics. This process is actually extraordinarily simple and is unique because of the perspective it offers. Instead of holding the product in your hands and saying, “how am I going to get this to the customer?” you take a piece of paper and on the far left side draw what the product looks like as it completes production, and on the far right side draw what it looks like as the customer uses it. The middle – your logistics processes – should be the simplest method of connecting the two. Don’t start by assuming such factors as packaging and warehousing, but rather only include them if you can’t possibly do without them.
The Results Are Striking
The use of logistics to gain competitive advantage is frequently overlooked, but it is a powerful way to get customers to pay attention to what you have to offer. Learning from supply chain for liquids and other products can add a great deal of value to how you offer your products. The other peacocks may be strutting, but your goal is to put the feather in your cap by offering what the customer needs in the form the customer needs it.