Quality Assurance as Marketing Strategy

6/20/13

In today’s marketplace, differentiating your brand from others can be a delicate dance amongst trending value propositions (i.e., Why should potential customers use your services over others?). While marketing relevance can be like aiming for a moving target, one marketing trend whose relevance is growing exponentially is quality assurance.  Showcasing your company’s superior quality system in your marketing can produce that “unfair” competitive advantage we all seek.

Sure, quality isn’t anything new. It’s been a moral expectation since the beginning of trade. Assuming you are receiving what was paid for has never been too much to ask for, right? Enter capitalism—and the requirement to maximize profit—and the economic landscape is changed forever. It’s not as though the economic incentive to cheat the customer is anything new, rather, it has evolved to be more sophisticated and stealthy, even strategic. All our customers know this.

We now work in a highly regulated industry with the cGMPs approaching a decade of cloudy, interpretive compliance, yet the composition of vendors still spans from the intentionally unscrupulous to the profit-hindering ultra compliant.

The first is inexpensive, quick, too good to be true, and a neon irritant to the FDA. The second category is nearly unobtainable due to budgetary restrictions but represents the quality we all seek. So, we compete with various “weight classes,” “cooperative rivals,” direct competitors, and, sometimes, even overt cheaters

No matter where you lie on the supply chain, maintaining an effective and efficient quality system can be a very expensive process—which can help to separate the good from the bad and the ugly.

When it comes to botanicals (my specialty), a competent quality system is critical. If it were only vitamins, minerals, or other single components, adulteration, contamination, or just poor quality could be simpler to detect. Many methods already exist for such analyses. Botanicals, on the other hand, oftentimes, possess many more data points, and quality really is in the eyes of the beholder—or the hands of the manufacturer.

Some find single active levels to be of significant importance. Others seek a broad spectrum of a family of compounds. Whatever it might be, if you are budgeting to maintain an internal quality system it makes sense to attempt to recover some of that cost by exploiting it in a your marketing strategy. In other words, differentiate your company from those who cannot or choose not to do so.

Inside the industry, “FDA 483 notices,” a form used by the FDA to document and communicate concerns discovered during a recent inspection, are not uncommon. We read about them on a daily basis, published by the various media sources.  These notices call out shortcomings of good companies and bad ones and have the tendency to raise awareness of the growing severity of compliance. Outside the natural products marketplace sits the jury, the rainmakers, and the final decision makers: end consumers. They play the most important role in this cycle of trade. Their awareness of industry trends (both good and bad) is finely tuned.

What connects the internal and the external is a growing desire for confidence that what is on the label is in the bottle. It’s as simple as that. Letting your customers know the superior quality system your company upholds in light of your competitor’s shortcomings might produce that “unfair” competitive advantage to differentiate your brand from others. The only reason it may be considered “unfair” is because it takes profit-eating investments of money and time to set up, maintain, and grow.

That is why your competitors have chosen the path of least resistance with a quality system that barely makes the cut. Don’t follow their lead. Create your own path of least resistance by marketing an exceptionally important behind-the-scenes/invisible feature: quality assurance.

Categories: Analytical Testing, Botanical Identification, Product Verification/Validation, Regulations