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May 7, 2013

Better, faster, cheaper… is it possible to deliver all 3 for a competitive advantage?

Creating strong client relationships is built on a 3-legged stool…wine

  • Excellent service
  • Low prices
  • Great products/services

And the presumption has always been… you can deliver on two… but never on all three.  E.g. You can be fast and cheap – but the quality won’t be so great.  Or, you can turn it around quickly with great products – but it’ll cost you.

I have always believed this to be true – not just in MR but in every industry – until I went wine shopping with a friend of mine at Beltway Fine Wine & Spirits, just outside of Baltimore, Maryland.

This is the first business – of any kind – that manages to deliver on all three.  And the customers take notice.  I’ve now been to this store on several occasions and every time I go, there is a line of cars through the parking lot and out onto the street.

Here’s the scenario…

Great products: They’ve got it all… wines ranging from $5/bottle to $500/bottle – every brand, every type.  And it’s not just wine… every liquor and beer imaginable is also here – whatever your tastes, they’ve got what you want.  All in a building the size of a small grocery store.

Low prices: Yup, got that, too.  Their prices are as good or better than any other outlet I’ve seen – other liquor stores, grocery stores and even the warehouse stores.

Terrific service: Here’s where they really shine.  First, they make shopping carts available – because they know you’re not coming in for just one bottle.  Second, there are signs all over the place – not only the ones in the in the aisles for categorizing the various products in specific places on the shelves, but also a detailed description underneath each product to help you with your buying decision.  There’s enough information on these cards to encourage you to try a new wine (brilliant!).  But they’re not done… they also have an army of well-trained customer services reps/booze experts walking the aisles to answer questions and help you find products.

It’s a remarkable experience to go into this store… and because they’re hitting on all 3 cylinders, the store is a veritable cash machine.  My hat goes off to them.

So what about your research business?

  • As a research firm, can you deliver fast turnaround at low prices and still uncover the deepest insights?
  • As a fieldwork firm, can you recruit quickly at low prices and still provide highly qualified respondents?
  • As a technology vendor, can you deliver an elegant software platform at low prices and still provide lightning-quick tech support?

I never said this would be easy… in fact, until I saw that liquor store, I thought it was impossible. But it should be the goal of every market research firm to build the 3-legged stool. Do that, and you’ll be building a competitive advantage that will be impossible to overcome.

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