The second day of NAMM U’s Virtual Summit on July 8 kicked off with author Scott McKain, who discussed “How to Stand Out in the New ‘Next.’”

Although it is natural for people and businesses to simply try to get through the pandemic, McKain stressed that retailers cannot take this approach. “What we do now will determine our degree of success in the future,” the author of “Create Distinction” stated during the webinar. “The worst choice you can make is to hunker down and pull the covers over your face.”

Instead, McKain advised MI retailers to focus on why customers would choose their store versus the competition. “If the customers can see no difference between you and the competition, they have no choice but to choose on price,” said McKain. “What makes you stand out? … If we perceive ourselves as a commodity, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

To help MI retailers differentiate themselves from competitors, McKain presented the “Four Cornerstones of Distinction.” No. 1 on this list is Clarity. “You cannot differentiate what you can’t define,” asserted McKain, who was also a breakfast session speaker at The 2020 NAMM Show. “You must be precise about what you are. You must be equally precise about what you are not.” He added, “If you are exactly like everyone else, you are ignored.”

McKain advised MI retailers take three steps now to create clarity. The first step is to “create a clarity statement for every action.” “Be so clear about what you do that you can define it six seconds,” McCain advised. He offered the following example: “Steve Jobs said: ‘Apple is insanely good products.’”

The other steps are to “consider clarity in all your efforts” and “reconfirm with your customers/prospects and be certain they are clear on all aspects.”

The second Cornerstone of Distinction is creativity. “It is not about being different just to be different,” relayed McKain. “Creativity is about finding unique ways to serve your customers.”

The author provided an example of the Taylor family, founders of the Enterprise rental car brand, as a company that created distinction with its “We will pick you up” campaign. “Instead of having to go to get your rental car, they said they will come to you,” said McKain. “Jeff Bezos also did that. He said people do not have to go to the bookstore to get their books.”

When trying to differentiate oneself, McKain stressed that retailers should not to try to do too many things at once. “Pick a single point where you will develop a difference and just do it,” he said.

Communication is the third Cornerstone of Distinction. “We are a culture of story junkies,” stated McKain. “It’s the single area of communication all age groups share. Everyone loves a great story.”

McKain encouraged MI retailers to write a story, but said it should not be about themselves. “Write a story about how a customer improved his or her life as a result of your efforts,” he said. “Create a story that hooks people. That’s what engages people. Make them the hero, not you.”

Customer experience focus in the final Cornerstone of Distinction. McCain advised retailers to answer the question “what is the ultimate experience a customer can have?” McKain stressed that the customer experience goes well beyond the MI store owner. “Customers could be thinking of an employee, not you,” he said. “Every person on your team is the CEO in charge of the customer experience.”

Unfortunately, retail employees do not always provide the best customer experience they can. However, they are much more equipped to provide a positive customer experience with proper training and strong messaging about what sets your store apart. “A fairly recent National Retail Federation survey stated that 70 percent of frontline employees cannot answer why customers should buy from their store instead of the competition,” revealed McKain.

McKain continued that retailers should do the following now in order to ensure the best customer experience: “Ask, ‘What if everything went exactly right?’ What specific steps do we need to execute to make it work this way? What are the roadblocks that prevent us from achieving it? And am I providing the tools for how it is done?”

Simply stated, the “goal is the ultimate customer experience for every customer; for every prospect; for every time.”

“Whoever said knowledge is power got it all wrong,” concluded McKain. “If that were true, colleges would have the most power, which is not the case. It is the application of knowledge that is power.”

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