Sam Walton shamelessly copied his competitors. There’s a story, probably apocryphal but true in spirit, about his competitive shopping trips. After visiting his own stores, he’d usually ask the local manager to join him on a competitive shop. As the tale goes, he and the manager would enter the store – one did a circuit to the left, the other to the right, and they’d meet up at the front door to debrief.
Mr. Sam asked how it went. The local manager proceeded to tell him all the ways Wal-Mart was better.
“But”, Mr. Sam said, “did you see their great hosiery display?”
One of our clients, a very savvy and innovative bank marketer, is always is on top of — and learning from — the best practices of other banks-banks and credit unions in his market. Here’s how.
Want to know if the competition does a better job at account opening? Open an account there. Pay some bills on-line. Is their Internet service better than yours? Get your staff to open accounts – loan them $500 or $1,000 from your marketing budget in exchange for bringing in account statements and competitive materials monthly (for financial control and competitive analysis).
Improve your offerings by adopting the best practices. And if your products and services really are equal or better than the competition, tell your staff – in detail – so they can explain it clearly to their customers.
Keep an open mind. It’s so easy to think about all the good things your bank is doing and not recognize the insights that often come from surprising places. I can’t count the number of times management has told me that their bank provides superior customer service, but they’ve never walked into their competition to really determine if that is true. Or, they’ve dismissed competitors on the basis of factors unrelated to the customer experience (e.g. “They’ve got problems” from increased credit losses) and missed critical competitive insights.
The point is to focus on the learning opportunities, even from competitors who otherwise may not be worthy of emulation. Take a page from Mr. Sam – good ideas come from unexpected places.