Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Billy’s Seventeenth Law Axiom Four: Control Counts!

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
From Invictus: by William Earnest Henley

The need to belong and the need for control are, in many ways conflicting needs. We are both communal creatures and fiercely individualistic.  The control need is one of the dominant marketing messages provided in modern marketing…especially in North America. 
Think about your own reaction when someone tells you what to do.  Most of us hate it!  An important factor that makes us adults is our independence.  We want control of our lives…whether in our working lives, family lives, and financial lives human beings need a sense of control.  Advertising uses the control need.  Examples include Freedom 55 (financial services) and Have it your way (Burger King).  In providing price choice we feed into the control need.  If there is only one price , the customer has no control.  If there are multiple price choices, then the perceived control reverts to the customer. 
The control need is often closely associated with one of the other three needs.  An increased sense of control leads to an increased sense in security.  A lack of control may lead to diminishing status within the tribe.  Our very individual identity provides the foundation for our control need.
Let’s consider this from another angle…the loss of control.  Being a Star Trek fan, I cannot help but use the example of the Borg.  The Borg would assimilate other species into the mass collective.  This led the writers to create the line: “We are the Borg…You will be assimilated…Resistance is futile.”  The key to creating any great villain is to play on fear.  The Borg proved to be one of the great Star Trek villains as they threatened the very thing that makes us human…our individual identity.  The threat to the control need hit viewers at a fundamental psychological level.
Trust messages are control messages as much as they are security messages.  They allow the customer to retain control through you.  A delivery date is a control message.  Amazon created Amazon Prime.  For a fixed annual fee, Amazon guarantees two day delivery. The competitive disadvantage for Amazon over retail stores is waiting vs. instant delivery.  If I go to the book store, I get to start reading immediately.  If I buy through Amazon, I don’t know when I will receive my book (lack of control).  To some customers, this disadvantage might not outweigh the advantages of greater selection and better prices.  When regular customers could trust a two day delivery window, they not only paid for Amazon Prime, but also ordered significantly more from Amazon.
In today’s business world, we often cede control to suppliers and take control from our customers as part of a complex supply chain. One of our manufacturing clients subcontracts a specialty service mid-way through the production process.  Our client loses control of the process.  Only trust makes up for this subordination of control.  Likewise, this same fabricator has the trust of his customers, for whom he produces sub-components. 
Control counts.  Ensure you provide your customer a strong feeling of control by demonstrating that you are the kind of supplier and person, who comes through for them.  Ensure you show them how they can gain a sense of control, or avoid losing that control and individuality so important to the human spirit.

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