In order for a company to be successful they must start with some basic strategic choices about how to present themselves to the customer. Common ways of doing this is to compete on cost, service, speed or flexibility. However in order to be a leader in your industry you need to introduce new and improved variations on these basic strategies in order to differentiate yourself from your competition. Leaders innovate, other follow or as I like to say, become Me2 companies. We all know examples of these companies, their marketing all cycles around the fact that they are as good as or also have or can do the same as…basically a company without a unique vision. The question is, what are these companies bringing to the market and the sad fact is…not much. By and large these companies are competing on price only. They do not have an original product or service and do not truly understand the concept of customer value. The bottom line is that companies exist solely to fulfill the needs of the customer – it’s that simple. It has been argued that it is all about profit, (however you measure that) but in reality, if you cannot sell enough product you cannot make sufficient profit and the only way to consistently continue to sell product is to understand what your customer values and to provide it to them at a price they find acceptable. Of course that leads to an extremely difficult question – how do I know what my customers value? Note, I said value, not want. Customers are, by and large, more than happy to tell you what they want. The problem is, what they say they want is rarely what they really value. Looking at it another way, there is a quote attributed to Henry Ford – “If I had asked my customers what they wanted they would have said a faster horse.” Henry Ford did not want to do what everyone else was doing. He was an innovator that looked at what new technology and process thinking was available, added his own twist to the mix and gave us a radically different transportation industry. Obviously he was not working in a vacuum. Many other people and their innovations went into his innovations but the point is that he DID innovate and in doing so, he differentiated himself and his company from his competition.
So the question you need to ask about your company – does your company have a Me2 culture, just following what other people are doing or do you have culture of innovation, looking at what your customer values and for ways to provide it? Another, equally important question would be, if you are providing unique value to your customer, do they know and appreciate it? Definitely something to think about.