A Deloitte study released earlier this year found that when choosing hotels, travelers looked at price, parking, comfort and location. Those who say “That’s why you need differentiators” don’t get it. These ARE the differentiators. Be the best at what matters most. The bathroom tissue origami will never beat having the best parking. The study also said that loyalty programs ranked near the bottom of factors taken into consideration. Again and again the market says “Whoever wins on the basics……wins.”
If I asked you to name three cutting edge companies, you probably wouldn’t think of brand stalwarts Gatorade, USA Today, and Amazon.com. But when Gatorade first came out in 1967, USA Today in 1982, and Amazon.com in 1995, each was about as edgy as a new company could be. Most people had doubts that such new concept brands could survive, but one thing, and one thing only, has made each of them a market leader and a safe, top of mind choice for today’s customer. That one thing is value.
The only way you go from being the new brand on the block to being an established market leader is by providing consistent value. That means you stay relevant through continuous market changes in customer demands, technology, the economy, and society in general.
You can’t “market” your way to market leadership without value. No company can gimmick or advertise its way to anything more than temporary success without value. Planet Hollywood was red hot through marketing, until it went under because quality and value weren’t there. Circuit City was a “Good To Great” company in Jim Collins’ classic book, until it went bankrupt because it couldn’t stay relevant.
Start edgy, like Gatorade in 1967, USA Today in 1982, and Amazon.com in 1995. Create value like all three of those brands created value. Then stay cutting edge at what matters most to customers. That’s how a new brand becomes an established brand.
On August 18, 2012, the Little League World Series U.S. Championship game was played between teams from Goodlettsville, Tennessee and Petaluma, California. It was the bottom of the ninth inning, and Goodlettsville led by four runs. There were two outs and two men on base for Petaluma as their batter approached the plate. You could tell this kid was nervous and felt the weight of his team’s fate on his shoulders.
What happened next was, in my opinion, truly inspired leadership and coaching. The Petaluma coach had been wired with a microphone and what he said to that young man was broadcast on television as it happened for all to hear. He told his player, “You can’t lose this game and you can’t win it. We’re down four runs and that’s because of everything that happened before now, so you can’t lose the game. We’ve got two men on base and even if you hit a home run we’re still one run short, so you can’t win it for us. You just need to do what you’re good at and have fun.” The coach patted the batter on the back and you could just see the pressure on that kid dissolve.
He hit a home run.
My daughter’s soccer coach, David Marmalejo, always tells the team, “I don’t mind if you mess up. We can fix that. But I really mind if you don’t try.” The team wins almost every game and they have a blast. They try hard and they know that they will be coached, not yelled at, if they make a mistake.
Before a week of extremely important tests my daughter’s teacher, Jared Brett, told the class, “You guys have worked hard and you’re ready for these tests. Don’t freak out over it. You’ll do fine. Just relax.” (There were other teachers who stressed their students to shreds.)
His class did a great job with the tests.
Great leaders prepare people to succeed, they don’t pressure them to succeed. There’s a difference. Weak leaders scream. Strong leaders teach.
Life will provide all the pressure that any of us need. Life is hard sometimes. Really hard. A weak, ineffective leader adds more pressure, creates stress needlessly, and gets in the way of success.
Yes, there are the occasional Bobby Knight style coaches who win. But there are lessons being taught beyond basketball. I’d rather my kid play for a John Wooden, win championships, and also learn class and character instead of how to throw chairs onto the basketball court.
A strong leader supports her players so that they can handle intense pressure. That means being a teacher, being tough when you need to be (re: Pat Summit), yet always having the team know that you believe in them, you’re on their side, and are their biggest supporter.
Whether in sports, business, or any other endeavor, a weak leader has players who doubt themselves and are afraid.
A strong leader has players who believe in themselves and each other, and are confident that they can, and will, win the game.
Really cool companies.
It seems that the conventional wisdom in business today, and what we hear from business authors, speakers, and consultants is that, above all, you must be unique. They say that to compete and win you should focus your efforts on being different and doing things that absolutely none of your competitors are doing. They back these ideas up by telling really cool stories about really cool companies.
Barneys vs. Nordstrom.
A couple of years ago I heard a marketing consultant tell his audience that they should emulate Barneys New York because it was the hip, edgy way of the future in retailing. His example of the kind of business model to avoid was tired old Nordstrom. He said that Nordstrom was, in effect, a dinosaur of retailing and simply wasn’t cool enough to survive.
Flash forward to today. Nordstrom is booming and The Wall Street Journal recently reported that oh-so-cool Barneys New York “skirts bankruptcy.” You know what’s cooler than Barneys New York? Making a profit and staying in business.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that being “hip, cool, and edgy” won’t work. It may be exactly what you need to do in order to be the best at what matters most. My point is that all around us are books and articles and speakers and experts who are telling us that to succeed in business today we have to to do the unexpected, the unique, and the outrageous. What I’m saying, based the facts of who is winning and who is losing in the marketplace, is that you win, not by being the most unique, but by being the best. Imagine that.
The Myth: People fly Southwest Airlines because they have singing flight attendants and their employees do all sorts of fun, wacky things.
The Reality: We’ve surveyed Southwest Airlines customers for six years now, and there are three reasons people are loyal to Southwest:
- Reliability and consistency
- Easy to do business with
What does this have to do with your business?
If you find yourself thinking about your version of singing flight attendants, you should switch gears and start thinking about:
- Reliability and consistency
- Being easy to do business with
The funny songs can wait. Being great at the basics can’t. It’s a matter of where you focus and put your energy.
Larry Winget reviews Joe’s new book, Be The Best At What Matters Most
Complete transparency: Joe is my buddy. He sent me the book. But I did this review all on my own, without being asked, because I wanted to. I didn’t feel any obligation to say nice things because that isn’t my style. I just wanted to let you know that Joe did a great job with this book and that reading it will help you run a more successful business. Joe took a simple premise – I mean a HOLY CRAP this is a simple premise (and I love simple premises) and made that premise totally relevant to every business – to YOUR business. He did it by pointing out the absurdity of most of the business stuff we have been taught for the past few years. He took all of the nonsense that we have been buying into that has zero impact on our success and gave us the key to success in business: Be The Best At What Matters Most. He used great examples of businesses doing it right to substantiate his premise. He asked thought-provoking questions at the end of each chapter that will get you (it did me) to think about your business in a new way. And, maybe best of all, one of the first quotes in the book was from Walter from The Big Lebowski. How cool is that?! This book is REALLY good. Buy it. Seriously, just click the button and buy the book. You will be SO glad you did.
- Larry Winget – “is the Pitbull of Personal Development, a five time New York Times/Wall Street Journal best-selling author, and the guy you see on TV a lot.”
From Be The Best At What Matters Most - Joe Calloway’s new book – to order click here:
A customer service expert tells a wonderful story about a “random act of wow” by a restaurant chain. She was extolling the virtues of this restaurant and the story was about, in her words, “how they treat their customers.”
It seems that a young woman was sick and confined to her bed at home. On Facebook the young woman posted about her sad condition and said that the one thing that she was craving was a particular dish from this particular restaurant.
One of the employees of the restaurant happened to see the Facebook post. She showed it to her manager who told the staff to pack up the woman’s favorite dish and take it to her. What a wonderful story! It truly is a fabulous “random act of wow.”
But it’s NOT how they treat their customers. It’s how they treated one customer on one day when they did something special. You see, that’s the trap. We get all excited over some out of the ordinary thing that we do, or a story about something that a “superstar” employee does, and we say that’s our standard of performance.
Somebody stop the madness! It’s great that this restaurant took the surprise meal to the sick woman. Yay! They are to be congratulated! But it’s not by any stretch of the imagination how they “treat their customers” in any meaningful way.
Regular, everyday customers.If you want to know how they treat their customers then you need to find out what their regular, everyday customers think about:
* the quality of the food
* the price
* how long they have to wait to be seated
* how long they have to wait to get their food
* whether or not the staff is efficient, effective, and nice to do business with
* is the food hot when it’s brought to the table
* how easy it is to park
* how long the wait is to pick up take-out orders
* and every other basic thing that the restaurant does every day with every
I’m beating this point into the ground because it’s the point that so many businesses miss. Random acts of wow are wonderful. Do them. But that’s not where you’ll win or lose the game. Don’t think that some once-a-year special thing that you do ever takes the place of being the best at what matters most.
Put your energy, effort, and focus into doing a really, really great job on the basics and into consistency of performance. That determines how your treat your customers. Then be on the lookout for the sick customer who you can surprise with a free meal. Jump all over it.
Unless…..unless having an employee leave the restaurant to deliver this wow meal leaves the rest of the staff short-handed, and the regular everyday customers have to wait longer for their meals because of it. Then all you’ve got is one happy, special customer, and a restaurant full of customers who are angry and waiting for their food.
If you lose inside the box, you lose.
A couple of weeks ago Annette and I saw the movie “Silver Linings Playbook.” At first I liked the movie, then decided that I really didn’t like it all that much, then finally knew that, like it or not, it made me think. I’m still thinking about it. For me, that’s a good movie.
Yesterday I flew to Ft. Lauderdale to attend a meeting this morning of the NSA South Florida Speakers. I rarely leave home unless it’s for work, and I limit even the amount of work I’ll take because I’d always rather be home with my girls. But this was worth the time, trouble, and the money, because the speaker for this meeting was Randy Gage. This morning I listened to Randy talk about the art of business for almost three hours, then caught a flight back home. I got a couple of really good ideas from the session, so I was happy.
But now it’s eight hours later and I’m experiencing a delayed reaction to Randy’s presentation. My mind is spinning with new thoughts and insights that are coming up from what Randy said. I’ve got some new perspectives (and enthusiasm) about my work because Randy challenged my thinking. The most valuable insight of all is that he reminded me that my job with my audiences and readers is to do exactly what he did with me – challenge their thinking.
Randy used a phrase this morning that really struck a chord with me – the artist entrepreneur. The idea that my “art” is to shake up people’s assumptions and perceptions rings true with me. If all I do as a writer and performance resource is to make everybody happy – what a waste of everyone’s time and someone’s money.
If you disagree with my ideas, and I’ve made you think, I’ll take that outcome every time.
Randy did his job this morning. He created value for me. He made me think.
What outcome do you create for your customers?
The business of professional basketball in the NBA is pretty much like any other business. You can try and succeed through hype, gimmicks, and over-the-top “wow” factors. That’s what the Detroit Pistons are doing this season. Pistons and Palace Sports President Dennis Mannion said,
“The Pistons are trying to lure fans by turning games into events. There are so many live musical acts that some fans joke that the Pistons parade a basketball game in between concert sets.”
And the fans are staying home in droves.
The Miami Heat, on the other hand, is taking a different approach. They are offering a quality product through a team that, as of this moment, has won 17 games in a row. Their “wow” factor is “Wow, these guys are good.” The Heat could sell out the Mojave Desert.
Is there a lesson for your business in this? NBA fans will spend money for quality. So will your customers.
(Be The Best At What Matters Most – available March 18 at Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and everywhere in the known universe)
Today the girls and I had lunch at Five Guys Burgers and Fries (a special Saturday break from the brown rice and broccoli). The company’s business is booming – and their only “wow” factor is: ”Wow….this is a great burger.”
Product quality, clean stores, friendly staff. Lesson from every market leader: If you win on the basics – you win. Not just “be good” at the basics – but actually win i.e. Toyota, Coke, Southwest Airlines, etc. etc.
Now….if you CAN’T win on the basics……better pull out the buzzers and bells, glitz and gimmicks and hope they work. (They won’t.)