Why just being the best isn’t good enough

At a music festival in the summer, I bumped into an old colleague and friend who is a professional photographer. As I had a semi-pro camera hanging around my neck at the time, he immediately quipped: “Trying to put me out of a job then?” It was amusing because we both knew he’d forgotten more about photography than I’ll probably ever know, but it also contained a grain of truth. Photography is one of those areas where developments (in this case technological) have allowed untrained practitioners with 20% of the talent and skill of professionals to produce 80% as good a service. At the same time, customer requirements have lowered, in this case because much photography is required just for the web, which is not nearly as demanding as print. The result is that the professionals are being squeezed out.

This sort of trend is happening in all sorts of areas. Big mail-order booksellers have prospered over experienced independent shops, because the internet made distance selling easier at the same time as customers started to value the local bookshop’s service less highly. The lesson for us all is that if our businesses are based largely on our knowledge and experience, we need to be very careful. In an ideal world customers will seek out the specialists and be prepared to pay the going rate, but we’re very far from being in an ideal world. Hard as it may be to accept, we always need to be improving cruder selling propositions, such as price and branding.

Entered for the ISA Marketing & Sales Summit blogging contest

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