Why do so many companies and entrepreneurs with great products and services fail to deliver success? Is it lack of strategy and vision—or lack of knowing how to “execute” a strategic vision in the marketplace? Hint: maybe both.
Fast Food companies offer the same products with incremental differences in price and ingredients. Ethnic restaurants offer mainstream brand names and menu items that have nothing to do with their unique positioning. (I’m sure Dallas residents have seen quite a few Persian restaurants with Italian brand name, signage and décor.) Social media agencies and entrepreneurs all call themselves social media experts. Which one should we believe or prefer? Media companies chase after the same story and sensationalism, so flipping through new channels feels like watching reruns. Even airline companies, such as Delta, promote trust and integrity as their brand values, with no concept on how to execute these values.
We’ve been numbed to brand promises never kept or delivered. Many companies claim and promise universal values such as, trust, honesty and integrity …. But which one is delivering and how? Challenge is lack of decisiveness and know-how on the execution of these values in branding messages. Values stem from our beliefs, and our beliefs grow from what we see, hear and experience. It’s all about execution and delivery.
No doubt, future growth and profitability will come from a different way of doing business in the New World Marketplace. Here are 6 easy steps to get you started:
1. Define your strategic differentiation
Strategy is not about being the best, whether it’s operations excellence or best practices. Strategy is about being different. Strategy is just as much about what not to do as it is about what to do. It’s a combination of benefits and trade-offs that your brand offers, differentiating you from the competing alternatives in the marketplace. Trade-offs are essential to strategy. They create the need for choice and purposefully limit what your company offers in order to have a clear differentiation and competitive advantage.
2. Determine your strategic priorities
Trying to be all to everyone is like being nothing to no one. Are you trying to promise and deliver efficiency, high quality, low price, innovation, superb customer service, high profile/image and fastest to market—all at the same time? Can you? Focus and prioritize your strategic execution. High-performance companies tend to focus on one or two primary strategic priorities, and they align their culture to support them.
3. Align company culture with strategy
Your company culture must be aligned and fully focused on your strategic priorities. Achieving and sustaining this alignment long term is the biggest challenge most organizations face in achieving business success. When culture and strategy align, both people and functions work toward a common goal and purpose. Definition: Company culture is a set of shared values, beliefs, causes, assumptions and behaviors that reflect how a business strategy is executed. The key to effective execution is having everyone in your organization internalize strategy in their daily thinking, actions and behaviors.
4. Choose your customers
Many companies need to re-evaluate their existing target customers, based on the 3 major macro trends in The New World Marketplace. More importantly, remember that strategy is about which customers and which needs. You can not effectively communicate to your changing customers, unless you carefully choose which customers you can deliver and execute specific needs to.
5. Align your company values with your chosen target customers
Businesses must appeal to the values that their target customers hold dear, and they must also know how to express those values in branding messages. This means aligning your values with those of your chosen customers, believe in what they believe in. I call this marketing to the inside not outside of the customers. Customers don’t just buy what you do, but why you do it. Most companies know what and how to sell…but they don’t know why. Like it or not, customers decisions are emotional, and you must engage them on an emotional level to change their minds and behaviors. This is a different way to interpret reality than rational levers of facts and features. Pick and choose the emotional values that you can and know how to truly deliver on, and then communicate it.
This is, and should be, the last phase of strategic execution. More often than not, companies of all sizes jump to the communication phase without completing the prerequisite steps. Nothing hurts the company performance more than communicating a branding message that is not consistent with your strategic differentiation and priorities. Bringing your strategic vision to life in your communication tactics is not easy. If you don’t know how, you should consult with an expert and make the best use of your marketing dollars. Otherwise, you’re confusing your customers while your competitors are getting it right.