At the beginning of the year my wife, Hanna, had a laser hair removal treatment session. Nothing remarkable about that, except she reported that it was comfortable, painless, and with no nasty side effects. Now that was remarkable. She asked her Budapest beautician if this was a new technology, and learned that it was something called the Elysion-Pro system. Hanna figured that when we returned home to Florida, she would track down salons using the new device. Big surprise – it was still pending FDA approval, and had not yet been introduced into the US market. Hanna scented a business opportunity, and together we started to explore the possibilities of becoming the American distributors. Spoiler Alert – You can read more about how this story has turned out in the blog section of our new Elysion-Pro North American website!
During the months building up to FDA approval, which has now enabled the distribution launch, Hanna, myself, and our team have become experts in the Laser Hair Removal market, and all the many and varied devices which crowd the scene. One of my tasks in doing our due diligence was to go secret shopping, that time-honored method of gathering competitor information. I called the sales offices of just about every competitor device, and received the constant mantra that their product was ‘the gold standard’ in the market. By now I was familiar with all the technical terms and specifications, and could clearly see that these ‘gold standard’ products were generally rather obsolete, and maybe – at best – ‘bronze standard’. By simple logic, could they all be gold medal winners in the race to win the market? It seemed that the gold standard was a meaningless term.
As I’m sure you’ll know, the idea of the actual gold standard is an ancient one, where the currencies of nations were pegged to the value of a specific weight in gold – a useful way of comparing and exchanging different amounts of fiat money. However, following the Second World War the idea of the gold standard began to be challenged, and by the 70s was more or less defunct, with America dropping the practice in 1973.
And yet the idea persists, that we can compare a product or service to the gold standard, suggesting that it is the thing by which all others are judged. When I asked all those eager Laser Hair Removal salespeople in what way was their product the gold standard, they’d reply, “Well it’s um, like the best…” When I challenged them with my newly-acquired knowledge of all the data about LHR (and believe me, I could bore you to death with the research I have absorbed), I sensed that many of my competitor salespeople were starting to wish they hadn’t picked up the phone. “Well, um, gold is, um, like better than anything else…” Better than platinum or diamonds? “Well, um, yes. I mean, um, no. Gosh, no-one’s ever asked me about this before…”
It’s very easy to claim that a product or service is ‘innovative’, or ‘ground-breaking, or simply faster/better/more-efficient (and all the other superlatives that we are spoon-fed all the time). However there are three crucial points to observe. Firstly, all claims must be true! Secondly, you must be able to back up those claims with proven, verified data. Thirdly, the data must be meaningful: a ‘gold standard’ is a nice poetic description, but it means exactly nothing.
As we roll out Elysion-Pro in the USA, I have been very keen to school our Call Center operators and Salespeople in these three essential points, and I’ll also be doing some mystery shopper exercises on our own organization. I strongly recommend this to every company leader. It can be a humbling or very frustrating activity to experience your own organization from the point of view of a potential customer. Will you receive the courtesy and attention you expect as a right within your company at the mere mention of your name? – Possibly not. Will your salespeople make claims that are less-than-helpful in promoting your company? – Maybe.
One thing’s for sure: As I do my own mystery shopper exercise for Elysion-Pro, I sincerely hope I won’t hear any mention of the gold standard.
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