January 2016 | Commentary | 3PL Line

How to Stand Out in a Crowded Marketplace

Tags: 3PL, Customer Service, Logistics, Third-Party Logistics, Supply Chain

Steve Leavitt is COO, Unishippers, 866-998-7447

 

Whatever your business, the success of any company depends on its ability to define its value proposition, and then execute the vision precisely and consistently throughout the organization. Defining a company's core value proposition requires patience, as well as a deep understanding and appreciation of your customers' needs and your core competencies.

Nearly 30 years ago, I owned and operated fast food restaurants, and I made a critical error in judgment. I didn't know it then, but that negative experience taught me a lesson that prepared me to draw parallels between the act of buying a burger and my current business—shipping.

Defining a Value Proposition

When fast food chains gained momentum, my family's hamburger restaurants failed because we didn't hold true to our core products and service offerings in the face of new competition. When we tried to become exactly like our competitors, we lost focus on what defined our customer experience and what made us unique. I was determined to not make that fatal mistake again.

I faced the same challenge as the leader of a growing third-party logistics (3PL) company.

Our initial success was dependent on the performance of the individual franchisee. It was not the result of a well-thought-out and communicated brand that was consistent across our operation. Systems, processes, and the customer experience varied from one franchise to the next. I quickly realized it was necessary to define our value proposition and have it permeate the franchise system. Our value needed to be clear, concise, and easily replicated.

We initiated a branding process that allowed us to gather information from our franchisees and customers. What did customers value most? How did this compare to what competitors were offering? What were franchisees passionate about and how did this resonate with core customers?

Based on this information we were able to develop a positioning statement and a value proposition. We needed to go beyond price and offer a service experience that was unique to our core customers, and made them feel valued.

The hardest part of standing out from the crowd is sticking to your core value proposition. As industries evolve and new competitors join the fray, it's easy to be swayed to follow the crowd. It can be tempting to replicate someone else's success. But if you are the same as others, you have lost what makes you different and valuable to your customers, which means you can be replaced.

Stay the course by looking at every partner you do business with, every experience your customers have with your brand, every employee you hire, and every product you develop. Remember to ask, "How does it fit with the brand?" If it doesn't, consider an alternative.

Going Beyond the Transaction

As the owner of a fast food restaurant, I learned the appeal for the customer wasn't just about the burger. The same applies to the customer experience with any business. As a 3PL, it's not just about the shipment. With so many choices available, varying freight, and small package shipping needs, the 3PL service offering needs to be about more than the transaction. That means identifying what customers appreciate about the services and what keeps them coming back.

Whether you provide a product or a service, you must continue to innovate within the confines of your brand. Innovation for its own sake is not a strategy for long-term success. You must pursue and seek solutions only as an extension of your core brand.