Three things clients and customers want
Not just the first one.
And not all three.
But you really need at least one.
1. Results. If you can offer a return on investment, an engineering solution, more sales, no tax audits, a cute haircut, the fastest rollercoaster, a pristine beach, reliable insurance payouts at the best price, peace of mind, productive consulting or any other measurable result, this is a great place to start.
2. Thrills. More difficult to quantify but often as important, partners and customers respond to heroism. We are amazed and drawn to over the top effort, incredible risk taking on our behalf, the blood, sweat and tears that (rarely) comes from a great partner. A smart person working harder on your behalf than you'd be willing to work--that's pretty compelling.
3. Ego. Is it nice to feel important? You bet. When you greet us at the door with a glass of white wine, put our name in the lobby of the hotel, actually treat us better than anyone else does (not just promise it, but do it)... This can get old really fast if you industrialize and systemize it, though.
This explains why the local branch of the big insurance company has trouble growing. It's hard for them to outdeliver the other guys when it comes to the cost effectiveness of their policy (#1). They are unsuited from a personality and organizational point of view to do #2. And they just can't scale the third.
Put just about any business with partners into this matrix and you see how it works. Book publishing, for sure. Hairdressers. Spas. Even real estate.
The Ritz Carlton is all about #3, ego, right? And on a good day, there's a perception that the guys at Apple are hellbent on amazing us yet again, delivering on #2, taking huge career and corporate risks on our behalf. As soon as they stop doing that, the tribe will get bored.
(There's a variation of ego, #3, that comes from being in good company. This is what gets people to sign up for Davos, or to choose ICM as their agent. Your ego is stroked by knowing that only people as cool as you are part of this gig. Sort of the anti-Groucho opportunity. Nice position, if you can get it, because it scales.).
It's tempting, particularly for a small business, to obsess about the first—results—to spend all its time trying to prove that the ROI is higher, the brownies are tastier and the coaching is more effective. You'd be amazed at how far you can go with the other two, if you commit to doing it, not merely talking about it.