Customization Capabilities as a Business Tool

Do you have a business? Do you maintain a catalog or products, services list? How generic or customized it is?

Let us say you are meeting two different customers in the same day and you need to offer them your products or services. Do you use the same catalog with both of them or customize it as per the client type and expectations? Does your catalog allow such a flexibility?

Almost all businesses have a catalog; it may be a flashy printed material or a simple piece of paper. Sometimes it may even be just in the brains of the company staff, but a catalog almost always exists.

In few cases, catalog may even be customized. But that will most likely be a simple change, like changing some products, prices, pictures and descriptions.

These catalogs and price lists work only to certain level; beyond that they become too predictable and routine. Everyone does that; what differentiates us from others?

Worst, catalogs can even become a restriction in the growth and progress, if it is followed very rigidly. How many times we have felt bitter that a restaurant doesn’t serve our favorite dish just because it is not there in the menu?

So, you can’t do business without catalogs, product or service lists; at the same time you can’t take them very seriously too! What should a company (especially small and medium entrepreneurs) do?

One good idea is to have a flexible catalog, with preset items. Customers can customize those with their own choices; you may even charge them for this privilege!

Consider a pizza joint. They have a menu card with standard pizza items, and a plain cheese variant. You can add any toppings to it and customize it. You pay for base pizza as well as the toppings, but what you eat will truly be what you wanted to eat.

Customers love this sense of control. Also, the pizza maker gets more revenue from such customized pizzas.

Can you bring the concept of plain cheese pizza and toppings to your catalog? Can your customers choose the product and customize it with visual (color, finish) elements, additional accessories, and even engineering changes? How much they will be willing to pay for a true customized product or service? If you don’t know, why not ask them directly?

Customers love this feature, capability because they can really create a product as per their requirements (within the boundaries you define, of course). It truly reflects their personality, enhances satisfaction and brings a sense of loyalty.

However, remember that this strategy will work only if the product customizations are carefully recorded, conveyed to the production, deployment teams clearly and followed religiously. Any slip in this will result in disappointment and heavy dissatisfaction to the customer, ‘this is not what I wanted!’

Having a dynamic, flexible, fully customizable catalog is easy when you have an online purchase mechanism. But many companies are doing it successfully even in offline businesses.

But this is only a first step. We need to take this further by aligning the ‘right product to the right customer’ strategy with our marketing. This is known as ‘slice of one’ marketing which we will discuss in the second part of this article!



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