There are many challenges facing leaders who are in the hunt to grow their business.
Some are beyond the leader’s direct control, like economic fluctuations and specific competitor attacks.
But there are other challenges that are under direct leadership control that, if successfully met, make a HUGE impact on the growth trajectory of the business.
I pay attention to the actions organizations take to grow, and through my blogs and podcasts I share what worked for me as a leader of an early stage business that we amazingly grew to A BILLION IN SALES.
But there are two tactics businesses continue to employ on a regular basis that drive me crazy, despite the fact that in my 4 decades of leadership experience they detract from creating competitive advantage and adding strategic value.
#1. CLAPTRAP COMPETITIVE CLAIMS
There is an extreme lack of clarity in organizations in terms of how they declare their uniqueness over their competitors, i.e. their competitive advantage.
And the answer to the question “Why should I do business with you and not your competitors?” is lost in the fog of aspirations and good intentions.
The customer is left to their own devices to filter through the CLAPTRAP to discover what’s real and what’s pure fabrication.
Everyone declares who they are and how they are different from their competitors using words—CLAPTRAP—like:
“BETTER, BEST, #1, LEADER, PREMIUM, MOST COMPELLING, MOST RELIABLE, GREAT TASTING, FIRST EVER, LOWEST COST”
But how can these words be believed? What do the words even mean? And if everyone uses them, how can they benefit any of the users?
It’s business obfuscation at play and it drives me nuts!
I would say—based on observation—that literally 99% of businesses these days use expressions like:
- “We offer the best coffee and espresso drinks for consumers who want premium ingredients and perfection every time.”
- “We work hard every day to make us the world’s most respected service brand.”
- “Canada’s largest and most reliable 5G network.”
- “We are on a mission to make neighborhoods safer. Our suite of affordable solutions make smart security accessible to all.”
- “We provide premium, real ingredients for customers looking for delicious food that’s ethically sourced and freshly prepared.”
- “We are the market leaders in communications technology.”
- “I develop sustainable business models and marketing strategies to fuel small business growth.”
- “I help manufacturing organizations improve their processes to reduce waste and grow profits.”
- “Helping you build a big brand with your small business.”
These CLAPTRAP-ridden statements may have some redeeming value to leadership who want to advocate and promulgate organizational values for employees to model and exhibit, but they do little to declare to customers the unique value proposition an organization has over its competition.
And many also take CLAPTRAP up a notch and use ASPIRATIONS to further contaminate the work of distancing one organization from another:
- “We’re in business to save our home planet.”
- “To inspire humanity – both in the air and on the ground.”
These are at best helium-filled statements that don’t separate companies and add little to meeting the challenge of differentiation.
CLAPTRAP and ASPIRATIONS need to be expunged from the leadership tool kitbag.
My solution, one that has been successfully used in our journey to A BILLION IN SALES is The ONLY Statement, my way of applying ‘precision to the promise’ of what separates you from your competitors.
“We are the ONLY ones who…” is specific, understandable, binary and measurable
- ”Kimberly Lebbing is The ONLY High-Performance Success & Mindset Expert Helping Business Owners, Entrepreneurs, and Their Teams Get Mind-Blowing Results in as Little as 4 Hours.”
- “ONLY TELUS PureFibre has upload speeds as fast as download speeds, and a 100% fibre optic connection that runs direct to your home—so you can binge without buffering.”
- “The North Delta Business Association is the ONLY team that: Links you to other businesses, connects you with experienced & knowledgeable people to help you lead & grow your business, and constantly challenges you to do things differently.”
- “St John Ambulance is the ONLY First Aid Advocate that provides safety solutions anywhere, anytime.”
- ”We provide the ONLY permanent solution that prevents biohazard contaminants (such as used syringes) and all other debris from entering manholes.”
- ”We are the ONLY team that provides integrated safety solutions that go beyond the needs of our customers ANYTIME, ANYWHERE. We are committed to growing our customer’s business. We ONLY serve safety.”
- ”Roy Osing is the ONLY author, entrepreneur and executive leader who delivers practical and proven Audacious Unheard-of Ways to build high performing businesses and successful careers.”
- ”Roy is the ONLY coach and advisor who offers The ONLY Statement as a practical and proven tool to create a competitive advantage for organizations and individuals.”
The second thing organizations do that keeps me up at night is benchmarking, landing on ‘best in class’ and copying them.
Benchmarking is problematic on several levels:
#1. Copying sucks. — It’s ‘sucking up’ to an organization or individual recognized (by someone presumed to be the thought leader) to be the best at performing a particular function and is therefore the organization you should aspire to be.
It doesn’t make you special. It may help you improve your position in the crowd of hungry competitors by being more efficient at something, but it won’t help you stand out from them by being more relevant or unique to your customers.
Copying is the enemy of being different. The maximum benefit you can achieve by copying is best in class levels of performance which may return better operating results than previously obtained but unless you vault beyond these levels true differentiation won’t happen.
#2. Being in the herd sucks. — The herd is a place where organizations go to blend in with others; to conform with what others do and to lose the DNA attributes that make them special.
Even if you are the ‘best of breed’ you’re still in the herd. It’s just that you execute a process better than any other herd member; you’re still rubbing shoulders with your sameness brethren.
And because you’re tagged ‘the best’, you have no motivation to break away from the herd; you find consolation in it.
The world is becoming a home for best practice addicts and as a result it’s boring and benign.
#3. Conforming sucks. — Benchmarking results in conformance; it sucks any unique thinking you may have out of your system and replaces it with the need to capitulate to the leader of the herd.
Rather than look for a unique solution to your problem, you look for another herd member that has put in the work to create a solution that works for them and you assume you can boilerplate it and it will work for you.
When you copy someone or something, you relegate—subordinate—yourself to them. You roll over, put your ‘paws in the air’ and subsume yourself to the leadership of someone else. Looking up when you’re lying on the ground isn’t a very liberating place to be.
#4. Being like your competitors sucks.— It has no strategic value in moving the organization to a position in the marketplace that ONLY you occupy.
“What are our competitors doing?” is often asked when organizations are thinking about improving how they conduct business, and the benchmarking process ensues — adding zero space between them and their competitors.
And, of course, if you’re chasing another organization, you’re adding nothing to the kitbag of things that make you ‘special’ in the eyes of your customers and encouraging them to spread your word to others and attract new business.
If you copy someone, all you do is lower the bar and increase the herd by one.
#5. Not trying new things sucks. — If you’re a copycat, you’re not an innovator. Benchmarking does little or nothing to stimulate innovation and creativity which seem to be values organizations covet in today’s world of uncertainty and constant change.
In fact benchmarking kills real innovation because it has performance improvement using the standard of another as its end game as opposed to revolutionary changes that determine new strategic outcomes.
We need to get our thinking straight.
Few organizations today stand out, which is sad; few are deemed to be really special by their customers.
Being remarkable isn’t a strategy on the radar of most, or if it is, it’s an elusive goal because leaders allow people to use traditional tools — like benchmarking best of class — to do their jobs.
Uniqueness, remarkability and being special come from being different than your competitors, not copying what they and others do, even if they perform certain functions more efficiently than you do.
We need to change our ways and put copying where it belongs.
- Start thinking about being different from best in class, not copying best of breed.
- Covet being ‘different from breed’, not best of breed.
- Think about doing what others are not doing, not looking to other’s successes.
- Go in the opposite direction that others are going, not following in their footsteps.
- Define best in class to be the highest bar to be different from, not emulate.
- Purge boilerplates from our toolbox and break new ground (and maybe be the author of a new boilerplate).
Copying is the enemy of being special and remarkable.
And as audacious leaders, let’s change the conversation in our organizations; purging the notion of benchmarking and copying as ways of achieving strategic progress by asking these types of questions of our teams:
- ”What can we do to be different from the crowd of competitors?”;
- “How does what you’re proposing make us stand out from the competition and be special to our customers?”.
- “What crazy ‘insane’ thing is a different business to ours doing and how can we use the basics of the idea to morph it into a special idea for us?”
I can’t sleep at night when the world continues to be infatuated with CLAPTRAP, ASPIRATIONS and COPYING.
Do me a favour and STOP! doing these two things so I can get at least 4 hours of ZZZ’s every night.