Posts Tagged ‘businesses’

A Good Business A Great Life #9: Preferable to all Others

by Jack Hayhow on September 26, 2011

Peter Drucker famously said the purpose of a business is to create and keep a customer.  In order to do that, of course, your business must provide a product, service or experience the customer judges to be preferable to all of the other products, services or experiences currently available.  In other words, you must create a compelling offer for the customer to buy what it is you sell.

A compelling offer has four primary characteristics.  It is:

  1. Meaningful to the customer
  2. Divergent from the competition
  3. Intensely focused
  4. Concisely communicated

Let’s consider each of these characteristics…

Meaningful to the Customer

Since Edward Chamberlin first coined the term “product differentiation” in his 1933 book, The Theory of Monopolistic Competition, marketing gurus have beat the drum of differentiation.  And differentiation is critically important.  But not all differentiation is created equal.  Some differentiating qualities matter to the customer, others don’t.  For example, you might be the only bank in town that has horse in your logo.  That probably doesn’t matter to very many people.  On the other hand, if your bank is open 24 hours a day, that might be meaningful – especially in a community with a large number of night shift workers.

Divergent from the Competition

The second characteristic of a compelling offer is that it is divergent from the competition.  It’s unlikely that what you sell can be completely divergent from your competitors.  But if your product, service or experience isn’t divergent is some significant way, it simply doesn’t provide the customer with a compelling reason to buy from you.

Intensely Focused

The third characteristic of a compelling offer is that it must be intensely focused.  In their wonderful book, Made to Stick, the Heath brothers lobby for focus with this quote from a defense lawyer,

“If you argue ten points, even if each is a good point, when they get back to the jury room they won’t remember any.”

Customers and prospects simply don’t have room in their heads for all of the wonderfulness of your product.  So focus.  Tell them what matters most – emphasize the one thing that is most likely to compel them to buy from you.

Concisely Communicated

Finally, the fourth characteristic – your offer must be concisely communicated.  In the screenwriting trade, this is called the logline, or more commonly, the one-line.  The one-line tells potential viewers what the movie is about.  In his book, Save the Cat, Blake Snyder uses these examples of a one-line:

A cop comes to L.A. to visit his estranged wife and her office building is taken over by terrorists (Die Hard)

A businessman falls in love with a hooker he hires to be his date for the weekend (Pretty Woman)

Your one-line must explain to the customer what he or she gets, and it must do so in a heck of a hurry.  If your customers and prospects can’t easily remember and repeat your one-line, you probably need to keep editing.

If your offer contains these four components, it is likely to be compelling and your company is exceedingly likely to grow… leading to… A Good Business, A Great Life!

Leader driven Harmony #38: ACE Your Life

by Mack McKinney on August 19, 2011

ACE stands for Always Control Expectations and we teach it in all our classes.  It means no surprises for your colleagues, friends and family:  If you say you’ll do something, then be certain that you make it happen.  Senior people sometimes use the old saying “Mean what you say and say what you mean”.  Lots of wisdom there.

In buying or selling services or products, treat people like you would like to be treated (the old Golden Rule).  And be sure you understand your organization’s internal processes so you can over deliver (and under-promise).  If you promise a signature or a delivery in one week, do it in 3 days.

In negotiations, don’t strive to win at all costs.  Build the relationship first and subsequent business will go much smoother.  Securing a tough, one-sided deal that costs the other party most of its profit is guaranteed to cause ill feelings and will get the relationship off to a rocky start. It might get you that deal, but won’t get you another from the same customer.

Worldwide, I have found that people do business with people they like, all else being equal.  Or maybe not  even equal . . . heck, I’ll pay a little more for insurance if Eddie Fields at State Farm sells it, because I trust him.  I’ll pay a little more for construction work if Ronnie Cooper does it, because he is fair and detail- oriented.  I’ll pay more for sushi at Sakura’s in Moyock, NC because it is fresh, the staff is super friendly and Wing and Wing Ha are great chefs.

In the end it isn’t about the money.  It’s about the friendships, the trust, and the people whose paths you can make just a little smoother as we all take this trip through life together.

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation

A highly creative team can make or break a company and they require special care and feeding (literally).  The complaints coming from creative people we have worked with through the years fall into three buckets of “frustrations”:  mundane, daily frustrations; professional frustrations, and management-induced frustrations.  Let’s look at each one and see how we can prevent it.

  1. Mundane, daily frustrations – These include heavy traffic lengthening the daily commute, difficulty finding a parking spot, and not having change for the soft drink machine.  So managers, allow people to work from home one day each week.  Also encourage carpooling to ease the parking challenge and reward carpoolers with gas money.  Lastly, put healthy drinks in the machines and let the company pay for them (select the “coinless” setting in the machines or buy your own machines).  One firm we know did this and also keeps a large kitchen fully stocked with instant soups and other fast foods, all free to employees.
  2. Professional frustrations – Engineers never seem to have requirements that they can use.  They always want better requirements.  And your engineers do deserve the most solid requirements you can generate, blessed by the end users of the system.  So make that happen.  Visit multiple users and get the system specification, contract and the requirements aligned.  Also, scientists always seem to need better tools and equipment.  This gets expensive fast but you should meet their needs whenever it makes good business sense.  But do two things here:
    • tie new tools to higher output, faster analyses/studies, etc. and
    • require the scientists to triage their needs so you work on filling the most crucial needs first.
  3. Management-induced frustrations – and here there are several:
    • Mismatched expectations, when management thinks they have asked for one thing and the staff provides something different.  Usually this is caused by management thinking they have hired mind readers.  Managers, be overly thorough in your assignments and get confirmation by asking “Now, what are you going to go do, and why?”  You’ll sometimes be amazed at the answer you get!
    • Great inventions and technologies get embedded in technologies and systems, but the project gets cancelled.  Technical/creative types understandably want to see their ideas take wing and launch!  So have an ‘idea greenhouse” where orphaned ideas can await a new home.  And reward people for planting wild ideas there (a year’s membership in the World Futures Society at www.wfs.org or a trip to a super science symposium or a great museum).  Let people know you value great ideas, even (especially?) those ideas that are ahead of their time!  And to prevent premature death of a project, design your projects as carefully as you design your systems (learn to do this in the Project Dominance course offered at Solid Thinking)
    • Hidden assumptions or unvoiced expectations cause the end user to reject the system.  Usually this is because management failed to get user buy-in during the design and development of the system.  Remember that just meeting the specifications is not enough – – – management must seek out representative users and get their vocal support for the system as it is being conceived, developed, built and fielded.  Anything less is risky.

Lastly, here are some Do’s and Don’ts for leaders managing creative teams:

  • Don’t accept problems brought to you by staffers, unless each problem comes with options and a recommendation.  This is how you build creative thinkers (and a replacement for yourself).
  • Don’t belittle noble failures.  Instead, celebrate them with luncheons and rewards (a half-day off, a dinner at a nice restaurant, etc.)  Make it a fun thing.  Build an accepting environment for new ideas, whether they find a home or not.
  • Don’t overlook talent you have within your organization(s).  You may have mission expertise in your organization that you know nothing about.  One of our clients has a “Mission Experience Library” of people with military experience.  If they need someone familiar with aircraft maintenance, for instance, they can query the database and find that ex-sergeant wrench-turner who can provide input on the new automated technical order system being contemplated.

“Take care of the people and the people will take care of the jobs.” (source unknown)

Copyright: Solid Thinking Corporation