Early in my career, one of my mentors told me about a dialogue he used with his strategy circle and sales and marketing teams in order to help in a turnaround situation. It was based on a handful of key questions. Regardless of if you have cutting-edge technologies and intellectual property or actual commodities in a mature market, this is an excellent strategy dialogue. Most companies would benefit by facilitating these dialogues throughout their executive, marketing and sales teams.
Similar But Different.
What are activities that both we and our competition are doing? How are we doing them differently, or how could we be doing them differently?
These questions reveal similarities with the competition and how you might differentiate to create advantage.
This may be quite a long list. But it is better to err on the side of considering more areas for improve-ment than too few. List all activities in your organization that provide any type of value for your cus-tomer. Whether it is online ordering or delivering contracts in blockchain, if there is any benefit to the customer, then list the activity. You will have to remind your team to not hesitate to list items the competition does as well.
After your list is mostly complete, begin to note in a separate column where you do a common activity but with some distinction. Then, in a third column, begin to create ideas on how similar activities could be done differently from the competition. Finally, in a fourth column, quantify the estimated value your firm derives from the existing or potential difference.
Sort the list from the highest to lowest value. Then, identify potential messaging, objectives and pro-jects you may need to execute to begin to take advantage of these points of difference.
Distinct And With Advantage.
What are the activities that we are doing or should be doing that our competition is not doing?
With this list, follow the same steps of listing and brainstorming as well as quantifying the value of each point of differentiation. It is interesting how often sales teams are not communicating existing activi-ties that are unique and of value or even know of how they are unique. Competitive awareness is a key to sales and marketing success. Ignorance of these areas is malpractice.
As you identify the value in potential new and distinct activities, you will have management decisions to make about where to allocate resources around building out new offerings. Ultimately, this is one of your most important steps in innovation and strategic execution.
Prioritize your newly clarified points of differentiation, and build a list of qualification questions to help sales and marketing qualify prospects for the need and value of the advantageous activities.
This dialogue is not a one-time event. You should be having this type of review and discussion many times throughout the year. Differentiation is about asking questions, innovating, qualifying and com-municating. As they say, “differentiate or die!”