Quality, service, price – maybe you can have it all

1 month ago | Feature

NEW (LISTEN to the podcast)  Barry Woodward, MD at Van Guard, in conversation with MiB chief executive John Pearce at the CV Show 2019

ONE of the first value equations we all learn at marketing school is that the product price has to go up if you’re offering better customer service and higher product quality together. It’s often presented as Q+S=P. This handy rule of thumb can also guide us on setting end price to position your manufactured product in the much-loved-by-marketers ‘good’, ‘better’ or ‘best’ category, making planning profitability and competitor tracking easier for everyone.

If you decide to reduce one element in the QSP equation, you’ll need to balance it elsewhere. If your customer service isn’t evidently the best in field, then you can’t charge the most compared to competitors with a similar quality product. However, a measurable uplift in the quality of your product will allow you to up the price by a few percentage points as long as your customer service is comparable. Both are straightforward to defend if challenged by the customer.

Manufacturers, being in control of factory door price-setting are more in control of this algorithm than most other business sectors, and some members of Made in Britain are challenging the Q+S=P ideology, positioning their brand as ‘have your cake AND eat it’ – get great quality and customer service at a great price.

Exeter-based commercial vehicle accessories manufacturer Van Guard has been a member of Made in Britain since the start and has grown every year since 2015. Part of the company’s core value proposition is to give as many tradespeople as possible, the peace of mind that comes with a secure load in and on their vans, and making sure nothing gets stolen.

On the Van Guard website the marketing team describes the products: “Put simply ‘Quality Commercial Van Kit’ is exactly what we offer. Hitting that quality mark is why we are in business and our commitment to the highest standards has made us into one of the market leaders.”

Van Guard also claims to offer exemplary customer service, which, it says, is made possible because products are manufactured here in Britain, not overseas. The customer service phone line goes straight through to the department situated arms-reach from the factory floor, so Van Guard believes this helps the staff to know the products and address the issues.

John Land, senior marketing executive at Van Guard, told Made in Britain, “The list of reasons to buy Van Guard kit is long and grows every year. Part of our commitment to tradespeople in the UK driving commercial vehicles and needing to secure expensive parts and tools, is that we’re affordable. But we can’t compromise on quality. Our philosophy is to sell kit that doesn’t come back to our factory in Exeter, to customers that do come back, year-on-year. Breaking the Q+S=P equation by being a British manufacturer is fundamental to our success story now and well into the future.”

At this year’s CV Show at the NEC, Van Guard launched two new products. The Ladder Loader has been designed to allow a safe and effective way of loading and unloading ladders from the roof of a van from ground level. This looks like true innovation. The other new product line is a range of aftermarket Van Locks, demonstrating that Van Guard is in touch with the needs of its customers.

So how does this break the Q+S=P equation? Well if you look at Van Guard’s pricing compared to competitors, they are in line with the premium products. But the prices are still ‘accessible’. In Van Guard’s marketing book, Q+S=AP – an accessible price that gives Britain’s van drivers peace of mind without breaking the bank.

In a crowded marketplace, Van Guard stands apart by continuing to innovate and strive to offer the best commercial vehicle kit around, at the keenest possible price, without compromising customer service or durability of its products. As a British manufacturing business, it focuses not just on what makes it unique, but on how that uniqueness translates into real customer benefits and clear, defendable brand proposition. That feels like having your marketing cake AND eating it, time and time again.

 

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