With manufacturers jamming more and more dealers into a marketplace, your product lines are no longer a unique advantage. Big Box stores are now picking up lines of equipment that have in the past only been available at select dealerships. To set yourself apart from the business down the road, you can no longer rely on your brands. You have to work to create a unique experience that your competitors can’t easily duplicate.

1. Understand what makes you different and unique
People will pay more for what they perceive as different or unique. Why would a vase from the Ming Dynasty of China be more valuable than a vase from a local discount store? There are not many 4,000-year-old vases around and the more unique an item is, the more value we as humans place on it.

What do you want customers to walk away from your parts counter saying? “Their prices are great, and they always have the part you need!” How about your service department? “Their prices are a little high, but if you want it done right- and on time, this is where you take your equipment.”

Whether you like it or not, you are constantly creating a customer experience. You have to make sure it’s the kind of experience that will drive your customers to talk to others about your business in a positive way.

2. Make sure you are developing your brand

Your brand is intangible and has nothing at all to do with your location, the lines that you carry or the building you are in. Instead, it refers to the reputation behind your company’s name and logo. To build your brand, you have to be consistent in the image you create in your store, your advertising and your web presence. I try to get all my dealers to create a “sell line” that communicates what they are about in one sentence. That “sell line” is then used on signage in the store, on business cards, in advertisements and on the website.

Think of something as simple as Campbell’s Soup, “It’s mmm, mmm good!” How about Coke, “Taste the Feeling”. I encourage you to take some time and work on a “sell line” that tells customers what you are all about.

3. Reward your people for delivering the experience

Don’t forget about the importance of customer service and the impact your employees have on the customers’ perception of your brand. Once a customer is ignored at the counter or treated poorly on the phone or sales floor, you’ve lost not only that person but everyone else that hears about the unfortunate experience. Remember that word-of-mouth can help, but it can also hurt. Get rid of employees who won’t cooperate—even if they’re related to you!

It’s important to set goals for your people that focus on delivering the customer experience you are working to create. I do a lot of work in service and parts departments for dealerships, and as I help them define the customer experience they want to be known for, I work hard to make sure that every employee understands what we are striving to accomplish. They need to know they will be rewarded if they help to deliver that experience to the customer.