Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Will you take yours standard or do you prefer customized?

It's the age of the customer, and they are in control, right? Right. I've been reflecting this past week on the number of ways, opportunities, products and experiences impacted by that frame of reference. More often than not it shows up as an "either/or" equation. Take homebuilding for example ... it's EITHER the 300 home/market/year national builder OR the 65 home/market/year more regional builder. The differences get further explained like this. The national can build homes faster, often less expensively, with more standardization. The regional may take a little longer, be more open to adapting to buyer requests, and in some cases it may cost a little more. This comparison is courtesy of Matt Jones, partner of Sabal Homes, as quoted in the January issue of BUILDER magazine. See page 147.

There are degrees of black, white and grey in this comparison for sure, as some of the best builders in the country are wrestling with. Whatever the space, or industry product-based comparisons are easier to identify than some others. But they are everywhere...

Take services. It's always peeved me as a client when requesting a proposal or an overview of services to be provided by an ad or PR agency when I get a templated response to a request. {Pull out last proposal with standard language and insert new potential client name here}. Ok, so it's just the start of the relationship, and it may result in zero new business, but show me you care, and that you want to dance baby! Show me a little interest and understanding of my unique problem or business opportunity. Show me you can customize your approach in this first moment of truth. I'm not saying give it all away, but don't just show me the standard. That's just boring, and easy. It's not an "either/or". Just like the homebuilder example, there are shades of grey.

Take medicine. My brother the pharmacist has drilled the importance of "evidence-based drug therapy" into my brain. So in medicine the paradigm would be follow the protocol (standardize) or personalize (customize) the care for the patient. That could get tough. Every human body is different and will react to the most tried, tested and true drug therapy differently, but the theory is the protocol gives physicians and pharmacists a place to start.

So maybe that's it - standard is just a place to start. It's a repository of knowledge and learning. Trial and error, and evolution over time. It could be the sweet spot visible only if you can embrace the ramped up, customer-driven speed of evolution.

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