A few days ago my friend Sally Hogshead (sallyhogshead.com) posted this on Facebook: “Being the best is not enough if nobody notices or cares.” She’s absolutely right. When Sally speaks to groups about how to be fascinating (and she is THE master of fascination), she often uses Jagermeister as an example. Who would have ever known about Jagermeister had they not told their fascinating story in a fascinating way?
My friend Toni Newman (Catalyst for Strategic Innovation – toninewman.com) is an expert on helping companies not only strategically innovate, but tell their stories in innovating and engaging ways. As Toni says ” Strategic differentiation has nothing to do with relying on creative business cards or a gimmicky title. But when the playing field is getting more and more level everyday, each and every touchpoint experience needs to tell your story and that story better have something that people want to talk about and share with their friends and network. In an industry where many businesses don’t deliver on the basics, delivering really well on the basics may well be enough to differentiate. But when you are competing with others who deliver on the basics, you need to do something different! Not different for the sake of being different. Strategically different.”
Scott Mckain (scottmckain.com) is the author of Create Distinction: What To Do When “Great” Isn’t Good Enough To Grow Your Business. Scott says, “In our homogenized world, companies in every sector—from big-box retail to financial services; from fast food to entrepreneurs—appear more and more alike, as do the tweets and LinkedIn pages of professionals across the country. But if people see you or your company as nothing more than a carbon copy of the competition, how can you expect to attract attention?”
Here’s the thing. It’s not an “either/or” proposition. It’s an “and” thing. In my own book, Be The Best At What Matters Most, I make a case for differentiating through superior service, quality, and consistency. When you look at companies that have achieved market leadership through excellent performance, you will almost always see that they also tell their stories in fascinating, innovative, and distinctive ways. Apple, Southwest Airlines, and Zappos are examples of great companies that are so good at the basics they’re cutting edge. They are also examples of companies who capture and engage the market’s attention with differentiated messaging and positioning.
Any company that thinks that a gimmick or flash-without-substance will carry them to sustained success is dead wrong. The same is true for any business who puts too much faith in the notion of “build it and they will come.” Uh, no, they won’t. Not if they don’t know about it or if your “invitation” to come blends in with the competition.
The need to constantly innovate applies to product, strategy, marketing, and every other facet of your business. Stop innovating and you’ll find yourself as road kill on today’s marketplace highway.
It’s not “either/or.” It’s “and.”