As I read Types of Strategy: Which Fits Your Business? (Excerpted from: Strategy: Create and Implement the Best Strategy for your Business (HBS Press), 2006) from a business perspective, the article reminds me of the last two big purchase items that our family has made: a Mini Cooper in 2009 and a Dell Inspiron 15 in 2010. Both items were considered a means to an end. That is, the Mini Cooper is my transportation back and forth to work, and the Dell Inspiron 15 allows us to pay bills online and email. The computer also allows my daughters to access a world of information for their homework and social needs. But, both purchases did not mean that they were not allowed to be used as toys either. Between the two items, only one is fun for me right now. Yes, it is the Mini Cooper. Zip, zoom, zag and any other z word that you can think of describes it. It has a sleek style and gets almost 40 mpg. In addition, we get full maintenance for the first three years or 36,000 miles, which means that we get oil service, inspections, replacement brake pads, rotors and wiper blade inserts. All I do is place a phone call to John, the Mini Service Manager and he takes care of everything. It is magic. My appointment is made, I drop off the car, they drop me off at work, and they pick me up when the car is ready. We have had more experience in purchasing cars than computers. We have had two Volkswagens, two Volvos, a 1976 MGB and a 1968 Triumph Trophy Tiger motorcycle and the John Deer tractor (that we drive the girls to the park with). All these vehicles have been great to us and the engines have always fired up on the first try. For cars, the Mini Cooper differentiation strategy has worked for my husband and me. We pay for quality, security and great customer service. These are values that are important to us.
On the other hand, at Christmas time we had to purchase a new computer for the household. We mulled over it for weeks. Should we go with a Dell or Apple? With the computer, however, we decided to go for the better price. There was almost a $1,500 savings going with the Dell. Needless to say, the wireless printer has never worked from day one (printer head and wireless problems) and I have been on the phone with India for many hours troubleshooting the problems. There is no magic here like my John at Mini; only that I have wasted my valuable time and energy.
Dell has created a fantastic business model and I should be praising Dell on “the efficiency and effectiveness of its supply chain.” But you know what, I don’t really care. This business model has caused nothing but grief for my husband, daughters and me for three months. For us there is no value of no middleman and that we are getting the greatest price. This particular printer engine never fired up on the first day and continues to be a problem.