ICE the competition

How to I.C.E. the Competition

I have heard the following statement many times. “Customers aren’t loyal anymore”. Although it is true that customers aren’t loyal to companies the way they used to be, I believe loyalty still exists. Look at companies like Amazon, Apple, Starbucks, Panera Bread and Duluth Trading to name a few. What is it about these companies that create a loyal following?

I believe there are three elements to their success: These companies are Innovative, Creative, and do it with Excellence in order to create a loyal customer base. Companies that complain about loyalty are the companies that tend to be complacent. Today customers have more choices than ever before and if your company isn’t continually Innovating, Creating, and striving for Excellence you will be left in the dust.

A good example is Chipotle. They came on the scene with all of the elements intact, A Creative menu, an Innovative approach done with Excellence. Their business soared. Then they stopped innovating their menu and their offerings became stale. On top of that they had food poisoning and other sanitation issues which hurt their perception of Excellence. Now they are struggling to gain the confidence of their once loyal customers who have moved on to the competition.

How can we in distribution I.C.E. the competition and maintain a loyal and growing customer base


Innovation is nothing more than looking ahead at the trends and then innovating new solutions to meet future needs. One area that is up and coming in our industry is robotic cleaning equipment. Even though robotics are just starting to be introduced into our industry it is clear in a few short years robotic equipment will be the norm. If you start today becoming an expert in this area you and your company will be on the cutting edge, and will be the experts in the field teaching your customers the benefits of making the switch. Innovators separate themselves from the crowd and become an invaluable asset to their customers creating loyalty and minimizing the price cutting competition.


Creativity is defined as the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work. Well, you might say there isn’t much that is artistic about toilet paper is there? The fact is that in our industry there is a lot of room for creative marketing, training and selling. An example outside of our industry is Duluth Trading. Started in 1989 by two brothers who created a solution for construction workers who were struggling to carry tools from place to place the “bucket boss” was invented. Their business really took off when they solved the issue of “plumbers butt” by creating a t-shirt with three extra inches on the bottom. We all have seen their wildly creative and funny TV commercials. Through innovation, creativity and excellence Duluth Trading has built a huge business which is now public with locations spreading across the country in the very competitive retail clothing sector. There are plenty of examples in our industry as well. In fact if you look at any growing business in or outside of our industry you will see these three elements at work.


Excellence is described by NBA coach Pat Riley as the gradual result of always striving to do better. Complacency is the biggest reason customers move on to different options. The first step out the door of any customer is taking their business for granted. Being innovative and creative is great, but if you don’t do it with excellence your efforts will fail.

You’ll never have to worry about the competition as long as you are continually Innovating, Creating and doing it with Excellence. Don’t focus on the competition. If you do, it’s like driving your car while looking out the side window…you will crash the car! Let the competition try to follow you while you’re on to the next innovation.


Michael Mirarchi is Manager of Sales Training for RJ Schinner, an independent redistributor partner to Universal Unilink members.