- Hardcover: 208 pages
- Publisher: Harvard Business Review Press; 1 edition (July 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 9780875843988
- ISBN-13: 978-0875843988
- ASIN: 0875843980
- Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 10 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,475,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Simply Better: Winning and Keeping Customers by Delivering What Matters Most Hardcover – July, 2004
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It’s all good stuff and ultimately proves that consumers care more about basic benefits than unique selling propositions. (Edge 2005-08-05)
This is a book about marketing for people who have read too many books about marketing... [Simply Better] is a welcome book that sheds light on a glaring deficiency in contemporary business culture... the empathy gap that exists in all too many executive suites. (Financial Times 2005-08-03)
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If time is of the essence, it is my editorial duty to let you know that you will find most of the important ideas of this book in the authors' MIT Sloan Management Review article, "Don't Be Unique, Be Better." Barwise and Meehan do not entirely dismiss the conventional wisdom that competitive positioning and differentiation require companies to offer customers something they cannot find elsewhere, but they do insist that this has distracted companies from maintaining a true customer focus and from delivering the essential category benefits valued by customers. The only area in which differentiation is clearly the right way to go, they argue, is in your advertising and marketing messages. Elsewhere, they urge companies to think "inside the box" by refining, perfecting, and delivering on the essentials that customers badly want. The failure of companies to do this has created deep customer dissatisfaction.
The good news in this is that organizations that adopt a true customer-centric perspective can generate a low-risk, high return opportunity. To help your business reach this state of genuine customer-centricity, the authors first explain how customers see your brand and make purchase decisions. They then explain how to convert that understanding into a clear view of what customers really value. These are the actual (and potential) generic category benefits. The book also examines the management challenges to creating these benefits.
The last chapter sums up by providing six rules to becoming "simply better": Think category benefits, not unique brand benefits; think simplicity, not sophistication; think inside, not outside, the box; think opportunities, not threats; for creative advertising, forget rule 3; think immersion, not submersion. This last principle refers to the authors' discussion of important arguments in favor of managers getting out of their offices and directly interacting with customers. This kind of immersion works because it avoids distorted images of customer reality, it helps filter indirect data such as market research, it acts as a source of storytelling and anecdote, and it spreads the results of both learning and the act of learning.
If you decide to read this book, rather than the excellent article-length distillation, you'll find some other fine points that often go well beyond the article. Contrary to the usual concentration on measuring customer satisfaction, Barwise and Meehan make a strong case for measuring and monitoring the drivers of *dissatisfaction*. They add to what seems to be a recent trend by emphasizing the risks and drawbacks of flanking strategies that require strategic innovations, arguing that it is usually better to be an excellent imitator. Chapter 6, "Customer-Focused Mind-Set", sets out a refreshing (though not truly original) view of "fast and right processes and a pure air culture". These honor the practices of "hard work decision making", "accountable experimentation", and a culture in which challenge and debate are seen as forces for good throughout the organization, and where no one expects an easy yes to proposals.
Contents: Differentiation That Matters; How Customers Really See Your Brand; Identifying Generic Category Benefits; Challenges of Innovating to Drive the Market; Caution - Inside-the-Box Advertising Doesn't Work; Customer-Focused Mind-Set; How to Be Simply Better; Notes; Index; About the Authors
Many of today's business books offer programs and plans on how to deliver unique innovation, making your product unique from all others. But most consumers are looking for a blend of things when they buy a product, and your "unique selling proposition" may be something that doesn't even matter to them. The example of a fax machine being marketed as having the "smallest footprint" is one where the company thought it was great, and the consumer doesn't care. The alternative is to understand the generic category benefits that your product delivers, and then strive to deliver them better and more memorably than anyone else. Consistent, high-quality product and delivery matched with brand recognition means that when available, consumers will associate quality with your product and will take the path of least resistance when it comes to repeat purchases in that category. There are plenty of examples of this scattered throughout the book... Crest vs. Colgate, Proctor & Gamble, and Target vs. Wal-Mart, just to name a few. Simply Better presents the perfect counterpoint to creating chaos and disruption, thinking that you know better what the consumer wants and needs...
If you're failing at the basics, then innovation won't offer any panacea or escape. Simply Better will help you to figure out how to solidify your core market and deliver value by being better than everyone else at the things that do matter...
The authors talk of a study done by Shell Oil. What people want is to refuel at a reasonable cost; be sheltered from sun, wind, and rain; and pay and exit quickly. They expect the pumps, and the bathrooms to be clean and working. The customers are not looking for a great cappuccino. No body believes that the super additives being advertised as brand differentiation does anything that the additives that every one has in their gasoline.
I'm reminded of the Warren Buffett investment strategy, invest in companies you can understand, whose revenue and earnings are growing, and don't change too often.
I then like the way the authors say that for advertising, forget these rules. To be heard in today's market you need distinctive, out-of-the-box communications; inside-the-box standard advertising won't be heard.