This is #1 of 20 Questions to Clarity
You can’t grow and market your business without focus. A clear strategic direction, with a well-defined sweet spot in the marketplace, is critical to success.
Many companies – not just start-ups, but also established outfits – flounder at this point. Trying to sell without clarity is like shooting an arrow at a moving target in a fogbank. Without your glasses.
Twenty questions is a common parlor game, so let’s use that format to arrive at clarity of focus for your business. This is one of 20 questions that you’ll want to answer in order to set your business compass, and communicate the right message, about the right offering, to the right customers.
Question #1 – What are your Company Strengths?
I once worked for a company that was overloaded with academic and technical types. It was an admirable collection of very smart people – so much so, that when you walked into the office, it was as quiet as a library. The only sign of life was the click of keyboards.
I was the marketing and sales guy. It was lonely, I must tell you. This was not a pump-up-the-volume-and-celebrate environment!
However, what we lacked in energy and excitement, and business-building edge, we made up for in innovative software-development muscle. And, over time, those strengths catapulted us into a position of being embedded with major pharmaceutical companies, supporting an enterprise-wide training platform.
Lots of other boutique companies in our space – some of them very flashy – flared up and flamed out during that time, but we capitalized on our stengths. We lost when we tried to compete outside our sweet spot. We won when we kept our focus.
Every company has particular strengths and skillsets. Some might be in the area of promotion, others in customer service, others in process, still others in innovation. And while we often look around at our competition and try to re-make ourselves into their image, our first task should be to assess our unique abilities and seek to capitalize on them. The last thing any company wants to become is a me-too commodity.
You might be a high-touch, deep-expertise consultant who comes alongside a very small number of clients – maybe even one at a time – and provides an extraordinary level of service. If you try to become a more spread-out provider working with 4 clients at once, you’ll lose whatever your unique edge is.
On the other hand, you may be an outsourced IT services provider that has tremendous ability to implement and support infrastructure and serve clients in their day-to-day needs. You look at the strategy consulting part, however, and realize that you’re relatively weak. Do you try to re-make the company, or add on a new layer outside your core strengths – or, do you culitvate key alliances with strategists and grow through mutual referrals?
In the commercial pharmceutical industry, I’ve seen multiple event companies (who primarily work with brands/marketing) try to get into the training arena as well, which requires a whole different set of personnel and skills. Almost every one of these efforts flopped, because they were a departure – no matter how seemingly small (“customers want training during their events – surely we can be the one-stop shop!”) from the provider’s true strengths.
“Think outside the box” is common advice. Clarity starts with embracing what’s inside your box.
What do your customers tell you are your best strengths? If you don’t know, ask them! This doesn’t preclude adding new capabilities and expanding into new realms, but those companies that succeed do so by first capitalizing on their core abilities.