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That has been clear at several recent trade association meetings where the tone has changed. Leaders are planning the year ahead with suppliers, and to put some plans into execution as the economy helps to support some offensive moves. That beats three years of defense!
As distributors claw for growth in 2004, a December article in the Harvard Business Review seems especially to the point. The article distills a research project that studied factors contributing to top-line growth for a range of companies (The One Number You Need to Grow). The conclusion: The best predictor of growth can be summed up in one survey question: "Would you recommend this company to a friend?" In most of the industries studied, the percentage of customers enthusiastic enough about a company to refer it to a friend or colleague directly correlated with growth rates among competitors.
It's a better indicator of loyalty and commitment, as the person making the recommendation puts their reputation on the line, the article argues. It's significant because this new economy makes it tougher to define distinct value ﾖ why your company is different and better.
While some markets today demand distributors to find new customer segments and areas for growth, there are opportunities to grow share in your back yard. But not if your customers perceive you as an alternative in the same pack with the other two or three commodity providers you compete against.