Life. Then Strategy

How to position your business in 3 lines

Many businesses don’t know how they’re really different

A big part of what I do for a living is helping businesses find out what they have or do that’s unique and compelling to possible customers.

For some reason, I still find it surprising when I start a workshop and the answer to this question isn’t clear… but then that’s my job. Why it surprises me is that a lot of companies have spent thousands of hours developing a product or service. Tens of incredibly smart people may have been involved with developing the idea. Then it’s been handed to a marketing team (unfortunately not enough marketers are allowed to feed research into the innovation process), someone’s priced it and projected sales then written a business case to get money from the business to put into communication. And, at some point, someone has probably written an agency brief – which, in many instances, could be 5-10 pages long.

The surprise? That more often than not, people can’t explain in plain English and in a sentence why the product is better than what else is on the market.

Why this happens:

  • Business cultures that only allow some of their employees to come up with ideas – and treat the rest as servants of these idea-creators
  • Business cultures that do not encourage constructively restless and honest pushback – overly-institutionalised behaviour
  • Business cultures that value technocratic innovation over people-centric innovation (IE innovation ‘because we can’ rather than ‘because people have a problem that we can solve’)
  • Business processes that do not bring in different types of people – including the people who may buy the product – early enough
  • The industry dictionary loop – or, “We read competitors’ ads and feed their language (words that real people don’t use) back into our communications”

In other words, too many of us are navel-gazers lost in really big echo chambers.

For. Only. Because.

One of the tools I use to help break deadlocks is the classic (it’s been around for years) For. Only. Because. Think of this equation as your elevator pitch. It should be interesting, differentiated, people should be able to get it straight away, but most importantly, it should be something you can build your business around for a long time. It can actually take a lot of thinking and research to get simple like this but it’s worth playing around with if you need to sharpen what your business is about.

How it works:

FOR: Who you want your customers to be (preferably knowing that there’s a quantifiable market there)
What you do that’s different – one thing (although the one thing could be the sum of several supporting parts)
BECAUSE: The reason for someone to believe your ONLY claim

A make-believe Google example:

For any information-hungry human being with internet access (going this broad isn’t always recommended)
Only Google organises the world’s information online
Because of its unique search algorhithm and incessant innovation

A made-up design studio example:

For marketers who are absolutely sure of what they want
Only CONTROL-A-DESIGNER puts the marketer in complete control of their design project
Because of our web-based management system and the live cameras that sit over the shoulders of our designers

How to fill in the blanks

Research and a bit of lateral thinking will get you where you need to go. Think about your current customers then jot some thoughts down about your perfect customer. Really try to work out what’s unique about what you do – if you aren’t clear, talk to people. See what they tell you. If they can’t tell you then talk to them about your competitors – work out what they’re good at and what holes are in the market (then fill them). Try to write the end result in an interesting but honest way. Fight for clarity and simplicity.

Take it for a test drive below

If you’d like to throw down some thoughts about where you could go in the comments below, please do so.

Photo courtesy Thinkstock.

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