“People don’t want to buy a quarter-inch drill, they want a quarter-inch hole.” -Theodore Levitt
Levitt’s quote is famous, because so many companies confuse their corporate purpose. They position their brands on what they do, and lose sight of what they deliver.
But every now and then you will encounter a company that truly understands what it delivers. They aren’t selling a product or a service, they’re working for a result.
Rick Eastwood, CEO of The Central Group, is very clear on what his company delivers. He explains, “We’re not in the business of selling displays and packaging. We’re here to help our clients get their products out the door.”
It starts with the result
The Central Group manufactures point-of-purchase displays and packaging, but that’s the drill bits to paraphrase Levitt.
Rick points out that manufacturing attractive, functional packaging and displays are table stakes. All the major competitors can deliver a well designed display. The gap is whether the display can increase sales at retail or not.
The commitment to the end result, improving performance at retail, is what drives Central. They are constantly challenging themselves and their clients to quantify and qualify strategies to improve in-store performance.
Their view is a client isn’t buying a fancy corrugated box. They’re buying a tool to achieve a tangible retail goal: increase brand awareness, launch a new product, increase category sales, increase category differentiation, or something else.
Innovate beyond your products
When you focus on you what you deliver your perceptions change about your products and services.
The Central Group’s commitment to improving performance at retail has pulled them well beyond manufacturing. In 2008 they launched the ROI Lab, a retail sandbox that has grown into one of the most sophisticated retail labs in Canada.
The lab enables companies like Colgate to work with Central’s design team to innovate and test packaging, merchandising and display concepts. They can set up the space to mimic various retail environments, and conduct research with live shoppers to see how programs work.
The lab provides CPG companies a platform to validate their in-store marketing concepts before they implement them.
The ROI Lab is only a piece of Central’s Strategic Activation system. They wrap their clients in data, from manufacturing costs to in-store performance. The goal is to get beyond the black box mentality that is so prevalent with merchandising, and work with brands to be very aware, responsive and accountable to the result: in-store performance.
Results make selling more complicated
Many companies avoid focusing on the result, because it complicates things. It’s easier to sell a commodified product. And it’s easier to sell a product if no one is measuring how well it peforms.
Focusing on the result means you’re raising the bar, and making your brand accountable.
Accountability is a not for the meek or the faint of heart. By challenging your clients to evaluate and change their processes to improve performance means you’ve got to bring more to the table: more innovation, more data, better talent, and better systems. All of which require more time and investment.
But the companies that commit to the end result, like Central, have clients beating a path to their door.
Another great post. This is so true even in large, high-stakes proposals (our business), where bidders get so wrapped up in their solutions, they fail to put the prospect first and to acknowledge and address needs beyond the technical.
@Complex2Clear thanks Paul. You raise an interesting point. It's like companies are getting caught up in perpetual navel gazing, and losing sight of what's really important -- their customers.