For most corporate entities, a lot of thought and planning will go into creating a market strategy for their product and service offering, in order to ensure that it remains competitive and attractive to customers.
Endless meetings, memos, discussions, workshops, and consultations are held with the objective of making sure that whatever product or service is being pushed out into the market is the best quality possible (at the lowest internal cost of course), and will attract the attention of their target customers away from competing brands.
If you look closely, though, these efforts are rarely focused on information collected from the target market, end user, or customer.
Most corporate entities are working hard for another reason.
One that, on the surface seems like the right move to make, but in reality is moving them further and further away from success.
What Is Happening?
A typical boardroom meeting will bring together individuals in management whom are focused on getting results.
What usually happens is most conversations are centred around the day-to-day mechanics of producing, facilitating or changing the processes needed to provide a service or product to the market.
Smart people meet to talk about how they can improve their offering and what changes are nice to have, or need to have.
Then plans are made to improve, or add to, an existing menu of capabilities.
Seems about right, doesn’t it?
Leaders and managers coming together to share ideas on how to remain competitive and ever-strong in the market or industry that they are in. Always looking for ways to improve – this is what they should be doing, isn’t it?
Well, look close and you will often find that these changes or improvements are being made based on what is happening in the market, as opposed to the needs of the market.
Very big difference. Let’s look a bit closer.
A Race to the Middle
When most organizations look at the market, their focus tends to be on what their direct competition is doing.
They are watching their service offering, the delivery, the capabilities, the way they deliver on their product or service, and their pricing model.
Positions like Business Development, Market Intelligence, and Sales all have mandates to uncover as much information as possible about the competition so that it can be analyzed.
Broken down. Mulled over. Feared.
Next, you will find that conversations start to centre around what competitor X and Y are doing and how, “we need to offer this too or we will be left behind! No one will buy from us until we offer what the other company is offering!”
Soon, every organization in the space is offering the same services, capabilities, or product variants.
The result? If you were to look at a simple list of capabilities for organization A, B, and C, you would not know the difference between them until branding and marketing were applied.
Time, energy, money, and resources are dedicated to matching the competition’s service offering, and it is a race to the middle.
A great example of this would be a network provider – if you were to look at any of the top 3-4 network providers in the country, all offering high-speed internet, mobile, home and data packages, with zero branding on the paper – could you tell the difference between them?
You can’t where I live. So how do customers make a decision as to who they choose when setting up their services?
You guessed it, price.
If everyone looks the same on paper, and they are all offering me the same types of service or product, then I want it at the lowest price possible. All day, every day.
A Race to Your Customer
It is a myth that all customers want the lowest possible price for a product or service. Yet most organizations end up in a race to the middle (or bottom in some cases) thinking that their value proposition is all about doing a great job for pennies on the dollar.
Yet is has been proven time and again that customers will pay for quality, exclusivity, and value added offerings.
Don’t believe it? Think about the last high-value purchase that you made and why you didn’t opt for the less expensive, off-brand version.
Why is that? It’s because Apple understands its target market. They don’t concern themselves with what the competition is doing, they care about what the customer wants.
They care about the customer because that is who is paying the bills. The competition is not going to add to the bottom line, so focusing primarily on what they are doing is a dangerous strategy.
Build Your Strategy On The Right Information
The key to building a strong competitive strategy is focusing on the end-game. What the customer wants. Not what the competition is doing.
The majority of your time and effort is best used when you are engaging with the customer, asking them what their needs are, identifying pain points and providing solutions.
Dig deep to find out what is changing for them, where they find value, and what they consider to be helpful or beneficial. Without this information, how will you be able to provide them with what they are looking for?
You will not be able to build a business on anecdotal, best-guess tactics. You want to build a business based on providing a paying customer with exactly what they want or need.
If you walk into a planning meeting and the majority of it is not spent on discussing relevant information collected from the target customer, then you are wasting your time.
You are aiming for the middle.
Let the competition worry about their own place in the market waste their time, money, and resources on trying to figure out what you are up to.