Being competent not brilliant

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We buy from companies because we trust they will do as they promise.

One of the main reasons for Amazon’s extraordinary success is down to their huge investment in infrastructure. We know that when we click the ‘buy now’ button today a parcel will be delivered tomorrow. And we know that if we want to return an item - for any reason - the process will be painless. These two factors have helped turn millions into loyal customers. Around half of all US households are now Amazon Prime members, despite some serious reservations about their business practices.

Trust lies behind my attachment to a local Thai restaurant. The cost is higher than their competition, but the quality is consistently better. I prefer to pay a bit more and be all but guaranteed a good meal. Sometimes we do not need direct experience of using a company’s services or products to have trust in advance of a purchase. I do not own a Leica camera, but their reputation is such that I am certain I would not be disappointed if I took the plunge and bought one.

But ultimately, as a consumer, if I make a mistake and buy something that fails to live up to expectations the stakes are usually pretty low, besides some resentment at wasting money.

In business, however, the consequences can be more serious, which is why companies tend to play it safe. Procurement managers often have more to lose by making a bad decision than they have to gain by making a good one.

For years IBM traded on a reputation not of brilliance but simply of corporate competence. “Nobody ever got fired for buying IBM,” became a well known phrase.

This puts small to medium sized businesses at a major disadvantage when they come up against bigger competitors with better known brands. At Hotfoot, when we work with smaller companies, we often focus on how they build trust with prospective buyers. In depth client case studies, stories behind products, testimonials, great team photos and design that increases perceived value all help build trust. It is trust, not price, which turns out to be the biggest reason we buy.