We are so excited to be moving rapidly forward to getting the Repeatable Successful Acts book from idea to reality. We are honored to have a fantastic literary agent in charge and just this week signed an agreement with a top editor. The project launches July 1!
We just finished brand new updates on:
How Different Is Your Different:
"If you get stuck, draw with a different pen. Change your tools. It may free your thinking."
- Paul Arden
We start almost all of our projects with three simple, powerful, and elegant questions:
What do you do?
What value do you bring?
How are you different?
These form the core of our attack points on strategy.
Perhaps the most difficult of the three for clients to dive into is how are you different. This question deals with what you do to create market separation and how that separation can be leveraged into additional market share.
One example is from the hotel industry, which for years had continued to move along in a very traditional rut. Everyone in the industry knew the data. Client surveys by the ton were available. Companies had the foundation of information, but few had discovered an actual strategy for differentiation among those numbers. Enter Westin Hotels, part of the Starwood Group.
Westin started a deep dive into the common data. Some of the information was glaringly simple to define. One of the common sense points at the top of every hotel guest’s list was, “We care about a good night’s sleep.” A Gallup survey in 1999 found that a large number of guests would spend more money to stay in a better bed. 90% of all hotel guests turn on the TV, but even above that number is the 100% of hotel guests who use the bed! In a hotel room you spend more than half your time in bed.
In a creative partnership with Simmons Mattress Company the Westin Group decided to take a step in the direction of different. They created the Heavenly Bed and leveraged to a new level, what the customer actually wanted. The Heavenly Bed features 10 layers of linens, pillows, and padding and became the first major hotel chain bed to present their new ultra beds in all white. A hotel guru and professor of the hospitality program at New York University said, “The Heavenly Bed is the most transformative move in the hotel industry in the last 20 years.”
So impactful was this move of differentiation that within the first week of the Heavenly Bed launch 30 guest asked to buy one. This unexpected move did not go unnoticed by Westin, and to date they have sold over 30,000 beds and over 100,000 pillows! Their move of separation opened a new profit center!
Westin is not done. They continue to leverage this idea of different with the Heavenly Bath!
In late 1966 Walt Disney was taking one of the initial test rides on the original Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland. He sat next to former Rear Admiral Joe Fowler, the construction boss for all of Disneyland, and said, “You have all outdone even my dreams.” Walt recognized that this feature was a game changer, another step in the differentiation that made Disneyland a lifetime experience. There is a unique perspective that exists in the Disney culture: when you have an ultimate experience, what can you do to make it better? Most companies stop at “ultimate,” but not Disney. Walt sat with Fowler and a team of Imagineers, the elite designers of Disney, and brainstormed about the ride. In the conversation the idea of adding fireflies to the swamp setting at the beginning of the ride came up. Walt’s eyes lit up. “That’s what we need, fireflies!”
Now comes the next unique cultural aspect of the getting-it-done spirit that makes Disney the world leader in entertainment. No one asked, “What do you mean, fireflies?” or “What do you have in mind?” Instead, Fowler asked, “When do you need them?” So now the sky is alive with fireflies at the beginning of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. People talk about the fireflies. It was a small idea, but one that added another layer of separation to what is the most popular ride at both Disneyland and Disney World.
How is Disney different? They stretch extraordinary ideas by seeing different as a cultural imperative.
The idea of different is where market advantages are discovered. The fact that competition has turned just about everything into a commodity creates the need for every business to be very good at the basics. Your core products and services drive the heart of your market share, but the idea of separation, of differentiating your business in a sea of good products, is where you move your brand from the vanilla to the hot fudge sundae!
DEFINE THE CUSTOMER -Most companies know WHO they sell to. Defining the customer isn’t about the WHO, it’s about the WHY. In an infinite universe of product choice, why does a customer choose to do business with you? Why buy Coke and not Pepsi? Why drive a Ford and not a Chevy? The leverage of different is found in a tiny space, a space overrun with subjectivity. The discovery process of these defining elements for your clients can be designed a number of ways. There are traditional surveys, but really, when was the last time you enthusiastically filled out a Survey Monkey inquiry? Instead, try real life meetings. Set up a series of group interactions in a casual setting, perhaps around a meal. Ask open-ended questions. Get participants to tell you stories about doing business with you. In their responses you will find the ideas to build a different strategy.
YOUR METRICS - Want to talk about hard, try developing metrics around subjective data. You can always relate your differentiation strategy to your existing traditional measuring tools like sales, expenses… you know, the “important” stuff. But to really measure the impact of a separation strategy, you need to develop a customized suite of assessments that allow you to evaluate the subjective impact of your actions. Stop discounting the idea that the subjective can measured. Create a methodology where the clients’ feelings are instruments for understanding impact. One of our clients has a 1 ½ hour ride from the airport to their facility and back again for their clients. They provide this transportation. If you want a strong understanding of what your clients think and feel, use your drivers as a tool of measurement. People talk during a 90 minute drive. That’s a customized metric!
ATTACK THE "STOPPER" - One idea to look at in your differentiation strategy is where the “stoppers” are. These are the elements that prevent people from doing business with you. In the cell phone business many customers seek to change companies to take advantage of more attractive rates, services, and coverage, but they are stopped by the ETFs (Early Termination Fees). T-Mobil attacked the ETF stopper by paying the ETFs for anyone who wants to switch carriers. They differentiated themselves by attacking a stopper.
I know how hard it is to justify allocating resources toward a subjective strategy like differentiation, but it is really about the quality of measurement you use vs. what is being measured. Sloppy definitions around subjective topics have handicapped the practice of pursuing a key element of market positioning, your ability to move out of the pack, to create space between you and the competition, and to find value in discovering your Heavenly Bed sweet spot.
THE CULT FOLLOWING CREATES VALUE: For 20 years, the soft drink cult-like following around NY Seltzer has been without growth. But now the niche drink maker is in the stages of a startling comeback. Founded in 1981, this preservative free, no artificial coloring (all their flavors are clear) lost its market position by losing focus on their product. But even after their demise, fans continued to run letter campaigns and hunt grocery chains for remaining product kept the interest in NY Seltzer alive. Their rebirth started with internet sales and has now picked up its pace in grocery chains. A good product can sometimes hibernate and then, as after a long winter, find a springtime of sales!
UP AND DOWN ALL OVER AGAIN:The thrill ride industry had been one of amusement parks’ have and have not’s. If you were recent to the roller coaster game you had big time thrills on modern metal wonders. If you were a more mature part you had wooden giants from an era long since passed. One or the other. But Rocky Mountain Construction out of Hayden, Idaho has come along with a creative and unique approach to providing a phoenix-like strategy for the old wooden rides. RMC’s new technology discovered a way to put the needed steel rails (they allow for speed and gravity defying loops) on wooden coaster structures. A roller coaster makeover is about half the money a new coaster would cost. Coasters nationwide are getting a new life through a very imaginative approach to technology.
GO BIG: There has been a ceiling on the price of a fast food burger, and that has been $5. Enter Carl’s Jr., with the Most American Thickburger. Hold on to your waistline. This colossus entry into the burger wars has (I kid you not) a grilled hot dog, 1/3 lb. Angus beef burger, crushed potato chips, lettuce, and tomatoes (for health purposes). It tips the calorie scale at 1,063 with 64 grams of fat. Priced at $5.79 it sets the high bar for fast food burgers. I like the idea of going big, and it’s hard to image going bigger than this mouthful!