Monday, July 7, 2008

Making A Commodity Special

What could be more of a commodity than a hamburger and fires? Or car insurance?

But look at the enormous difference between how well local restaurants differentiate themselves from other local restaurants and national chains and how local insurance agencies differentiate themselves from other local agencies and national chains.

Here are some of the places in my hometown of Durham, NC I go to get a burger. These comparisons are for a CheeseBurger, Fires and a soda. No taxes.

Wimpy's - $7.15 - Just about everything at Wimpy's is homemade: fresh home-ground beef for the burgers. There's fresh baked banana pudding daily as well as some kind of cake. The draw back to Wimpy's is there is no drive through and no seating. Very low on the convenience factor.

Cook Out - $7.15 - Their burgers really do taste and look like burgers you would cook out yourself. But it is just a drive through, so I have to eat in the car or take it back to the office. Convenience to buy, inconvenient to eat.

Wendy's - $5.25 - They are just sort of a no mind habit. Cheap, the same everywhere. Impersonal. High on convenience.

Watts Grocery - $9.45 - Absolutely the best hamburger and bun I have ever eaten. This is a treat not because of the price, but because it is a nice, comfortable restaurant with a fine and friendly atmosphere. Takes longer than a fast food restaurant to have lunch.

Red Robin - $9.74 - When I have a crowd of youngsters, this is a first choice. They all like it. It is the "In" place for their age. Takes longer than a fast food, about as long as Watt's Grocery.

I rank these as favorites in this order:
  1. Watts Grocery
  2. Cook-Out
  3. Wimpy's
  4. Wendy's
  5. Red Robin

It is interesting that if I, a middle aged male, like the best burger and the slowest service. The Cook Out is a top choice when the family is out of town and I am feeding myself. Wimpy's is my choice when I want to remind myself I was born and raised here. Wendy's I eat mostly when I am traveling and need a fast stop off the Interstate. Red Robin is only for taking a crowd.

My son, a hungry young man, goes to Cook-Out most frequently. He also likes Hardees and Red Robin. He will not go to a Red Robin alone. He is more sensitive to price than I am.

Before I get to our local insurance agencies I am going to admit we all go to restaurants more often than we go to insurance agencies. That makes it easier for me to tell you how I feel about restaurants. Also, I go to several restaurants, but I will most likely only go to one insurance agency.

This lack of frequency of going to an insurance agency only makes your branding and my experience with you even more important in my way of thinking.

Back to insurance agencies. Here are the results i get from Google when I do a search for "insurance agency" + Durham, NC.

First I get "Local Business Results"

A. Mitchell Tom Insurance Agency - - (919) 286-4513 - more
B. Bull City Insurance Agency Inc - - (919) 596-0671 - more
C. State Farm Insurance Agents: Durham Agents - - (919) 477-7300 - more
D. Forrester & Associates Insurance Agency Inc: Durham-Pittsboro Area - - (919) 383-8551 - more
E. Jessup Insurance Agency Inc - - (919) 479-6996 - more
F. Faircloth Insurance Agency - - (919) 383-6704 - more
G. Perry Insurance Agency - - (919) 471-1688 - more
H. Jones Andrew Insurance Agency - - (919) 493-2929 - more
I. Direct General Insurance Agency - - (919) 220-0887 - more
J. High & Rubish Insurance Agency - - (919) 913-1144 - more

By the way, this Local Results is GREAT!

The Sponsored Search has:

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Insurance AgencyLocal insurance providerInsurance to cover all your needs.www.E-Abacusinsurance.comRaleigh-Durham (Fayetteville), NC

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The non local, free search results has this...

Jason R. Redmond Insurance Agency - Durham, NC, 27712 - Citysearch
Come to Citysearch to get information, directions, and reviews on Jason R. Redmond Insurance Agency and other Life Insurance Companies, Consultants, Autos, - 61k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

Sizsiz Wong Insurance Agency, Durham NC 27713 --
Sizsiz Wong Insurance Agency, 105 W Nc Highway 54 Ste 279, Durham, NC. Tel: 919-544-7000. Come to MerchantCircle to get Sizsiz Wong Insurance Agency ...
var mb12=ManyBox.register('12',3,'W47l_ZHMfYsJ','','f3bf',14,'Show map of 105 W Nc Highway 54, Durham, NC 27713','Hide map of 105 W Nc Highway 54, Durham, NC 27713')
Show map of 105 W Nc Highway 54, Durham, NC 27713 - 30k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

How To Select An Auto Insurance Agency Durham NC - Durham NC, car ...
You can have success in selecting auto insurance by choosing the right auto insurance agency – one that has your best interests in - 68k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

Payless Insurance Agency - Durham, NC - 27703
Listing for Payless Insurance Agency - Durham, NC - 27703 - includes address, phone number, map and areas of specialization.
var mb14=ManyBox.register('14',3,'o7hiqLqcsD0J','','83a5',14,'Show map of 3502 Holloway St, Durham, NC 27703','Hide map of 3502 Holloway St, Durham, NC 27703')
Show map of 3502 Holloway St, Durham, NC 27703 - 13k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

Jason R. Redmond Insurance Agency - Durham, NC 27712 - Reviews ...
Read Reviews of Jason R. Redmond Insurance Agency in Durham, NC.
var mb15=ManyBox.register('15',3,'5T7v2gI-GxQJ','','600e',14,'Show map of 4223 Lazy River Dr, Durham, NC 27712','Hide map of 4223 Lazy River Dr, Durham, NC 27712')
Show map of 4223 Lazy River Dr, Durham, NC 27712 - 25k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

Dominick Huckabee Noblin & Trent Insurance Agency, Durham, NC ...
Get directions, reviews, payment information on Dominick Huckabee Noblin & Trent Insurance Agency located at Durham, NC. Search for other Business - 30k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

Info for PAYLESS INSURANCE AGENCY powered by MBB YELLOWPAGES.COM Industrial Directory includes address, phone, map, . A specialist in INSURANCE, - 20k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

Faircloth Insurance Agency - Durham NC - Insurance - (919) 383 ...
Looking for information about Faircloth Insurance Agency in Durham NC? Open List offers business information, reviews, and recommendations about this - 54k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

Life Insurance Businesses in the Durham Yellow Pages
Faircloth Insurance Agency (919) 383-6704 3310 Croasdaile Dr Ste 800 Durham, NC 27705 Top Rated listings for "Life Insurance" - 104k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

George Stevens Insurance Agency, Inc. - Insurance in Durham
Providing auto, home, life, business, and more in NC . Includes area info, insurance info, and online - 15k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

I know this is a lot of links.

For starters, can you tell from the results above what they offer? What is their specialty? Do you have any feel for the experience you will have with them?

Second, go to several of their web sites. When you visit the web site, can you then tell me the answers to the above questions?

Are any of these agencies going after the same customer types you are going after? If so, pay attention to what they are doing that makes you aware of that. Especially pay attention to things they are doing that you think successfully bring in new customers or keep existing customers. You will want to do these things also.

So, after a round about trip, here is my point, with all these links and comparisons. Even if you think you are not creating a brand - you are.

Even with commodities like hamburgers and insurance, you are different. You need to understand how you are seen as different. You need to decide if that is that way you want to be seen as different. You need to intentionally create the difference you want others to see, experience and understand.

Figure out the impression and experience you want to create for the customers you want to attract. You can learn this by seeing what the most successful agencies in your market are doing to get their results.

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