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I recently traveled on Delta Airlines; it had been maybe 7 years since I’ve used Delta and was pleasantly surprised to find an airline that had broken out of the typical airline mentality. Most airlines today are the same – they position themselves more on price than anything, not unlike the Professional Services Industry. Sure, attorneys, accountants and engineers try to extend their value beyond price but they all say the same thing.

“Our expertise is XYZ, and we are global. We have specialists in this industry…blah, blah, blah.”  We all say the same thing and who is to say that 20 years experience is better than 30, or 50 clients in that industry has more meaning than 30. It’s not true positioning or differentiation – ask your prospects these questions and they will tell you, it’s not all that different.

The airlines are trapped in this same scenario with pricing becoming the overriding reason to go with one over the other. Convenience is out the window, because there is nothing convenient about air travel.

So I was surprised to find Delta is differentiating itself and turning the flying experience into something that is nice through technology and better quality environment. Most of us hate to fly, your herded around, the waiting areas are crowded, you can’t hear the gate attendant yelling whatever zone they are yelling. People bring on all their bags and then your left to stew on the flight. All amenities that used to make the experience nicer have been thrown out the window, unless you fly Delta.

Delta airlines’ gate was ensconced in leather-like, padded seats that had tables between each so you could sit comfortably. Large LCD panel screens hung in various spots. The gate area was clean with wide aisles (this was in Atlanta) and they had recycling garbage can that I believe compacted the trash (you could hear them compact the trash when you put trash in it). When the gate attendant starting announcing the “zones” the numbers flashed on the screen so you could hear it and SEE it.

The planes offered “wi-fi” access and the one I was on also had TV’s at each seat. You could watch FREE TV or pay for a movie or HBO or other cable show to watch. The flight attendants wore a uniform that beckoned back to the days when flying was a more formal affair; a nice touch in my book. One side of the overhead luggage bin has been extended to provide more space. A premium in these days.

I just realized that after flying for four hours in coach, that I had a nice experience on the flight. The technology helped me ignore the discomfort of flying on a long trip. The environment was clean and I was able to leverage the LCD TV’s to find out where I needed to go to catch my next flight. The screens at the gate show all the passengers that are catching another “leg” what gate they need to go to – so it’s very personalized or seems to be.

Basically Delta has decided to get away from the idea that you should choose them based on price and instead look to having a nice experience. They’ve repositioned their value from just getting you from point A to point B the cheapest way they can and are creating an experience that makes you want to fly them over another airline.

I’m sure Delta has its detractors, but I can tell you they are positioning themselves correctly. I no longer feel like cattle with Delta. So what should a professional services marketer learn from this?

Start thinking beyond “industry experience and years of experience,” it’s important but it rarely is a differentiator. You need to find other differentiators that will make the prospect pick you over your competitors. This could be in the way you engage clients, create networks of resources, leverage technology, educate – there are a lot of ways to re-position your firm. Find them.

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