Time, Time, Time….and how to sell it

Today’s WSJ has an excellent article on how companies can use time to their competitive advantage. In a world with only so many high-level benefits can be offered (you can have sub-messages at the 2nd and 3rd tiers down, but really most benefits either increase, decrease or improve something) this is a great way to differentiate yourself- if you can keep in mind exactly how your product or service manipulates time.

They grouped the time factors into 2 categories:

1) Managing Time as Price. Helping people do things faster, thus saving time and helping people do more in less time. The reporters found 4 approaches to this benefit statement:

Doing it for them (ie, Roomba vacuums)
Picking up the pace (drive-through windows)
Shrinking the time committment, if that has been the obstacle to purchase (lunchtime facelifts)
Ending the wait (redesigned check out line processes for faster service)
2) Managing Time as Product. Turning time into something people will buy. For example, all the home-based cooking offerings out there, like Washington’s own Dream Dinners. It enables you to prepare a home-cooked meal ahead of time, pick your entrees on the web, and then stop by their local Dream Dinners on the way home to assemble the pre-chopped ingredients. They estimate they save people 20 hours a month in all the tasks involved in planning, prepping, shopping, preparing and clean up. So customers essentially “buy time.”

The article talked about giving people a choice on whether they prefer to save time or enjoy their time more. They cited Blue Nile, where you can buy jewelry and engagement rings online, as one who employs a choice strategy. He can research as little or as much as he wants, but once the selection is made, the transaction is pretty quick.

The article goes further to say companies need to continually check in on this strategy and benefit with their customers, as needs change over time. Their assessment of time costs changes as well so you must continually test new approaches. The goods and services that customers may have been willing to invest time in when they were new, may now require time-saving approaches and redesigns today just to stay relevant – and to meet changing expectations.

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