Have an IMPACT that identifies you.
Turn your PASSION into a connection.
Value what OTHERS really need.
Turn words into ACTION.
Cause the right RESPONSE.
See power in the OUTCOME.
Take your customers into the FUTURE.
…from Candlestick WARS
The War Begins
Once upon a time in a land called Opportunity, there lived a butcher, a baker, and TWO candlestick makers. Yes, two candlestick makers. The butcher and the baker were living happily ever after because they each had a monopoly.
However, the candlestick makers were unhappy because there was not enough business for both of them. One would be the loser; the other would be the winner. Or maybe both would be losers. And so the war began.
How uncivilized is that? Isn’t there enough business to go around for everyone? Isn’t it possible to work together and make the world peachy for everyone to do business in? I don’t think so. The reality is, you can’t avoid competition. You can’t even park your car without someone else wanting to take a closer parking space. You compete for time, money, a promotion, goods, services, customers, donors, attention, space, and even a spouse. Competition is just a nice name for a war. So let’s just call it a war and be done with it.
Hey, you ask, what’s with all the once-upon-a-time stuff and war? You probably just want the hard facts about business and not a story. But facts are just useless pieces of information until you have a proper framework to hang them on. Our framework is going to be the war between these two candlestick makers because you will recognize the battles of your competitive war only through their story. Actually, if you don’t first learn how to fight the war of competition in your own land, then thinking you’ll have a successful business is the real fairy tale.
But let’s get back to the two candlestick makers. They were fairly evenly matched. They both had plenty of experience in the trade, and both made a decent product. Hmm … now your’e thinking this will be a boring story. Actually, most businesses are boring, and they trudge along in mediocrity. Few of them know how to break from the pack and begin to really win big. So, that is what I am going to build my story around. I am going to show you how one of these merchants was able to win big. Isn’t that what you want to do in your business? You never started your business or career with the goal of being mediocre. You didn’t want to simply win a consolation prize. You wanted success, and you still do. You want to know how to become successful. So let’s see what the candlestick makers did.
But first, let’s give these two merchants a name. I feel a PC crisis coming on. Do I make them women, men, young, old, or what? Well, let’s call one Anne and the other Bill. Now I have to figure out who wins and who loses. I know, I’ll flip a coin. Done!
Also, we have to level the playing field and eliminate all the other competitive issues. We don’t have enough space in this book to discuss all the details of an epic war. Let’s just say Anne and Bill have the same experience, supply chain, material and labor costs. We are going to limit the scope of this war to one issue, how well they communicate in the marketplace. Companies will spend millions gaining in these other areas, and that is good. But, if you cannot communicate in the marketplace, you must have a huge differential factor in some other area. Most businesses don’t have that.
Think about it a minute, how important is communication in warfare? If the lines of communication are cut, then all coordination, provision, and strategy come to a screeching halt. Is there anything in your business that doesn’t depend on communication? A scientist convinced the business world years ago that communication was a soft skill. That’s a lie. It is one of the strongest and hardest skills you can ever develop internally or externally in your business. You may forget a hundred times that this book is about communication. Determine that you will not do so! You have to remember that your effectiveness in any marketplace is totally dependent on your conversation with the market, both verbal and nonverbal.
Oh, I almost forgot, you need to know who won the coin toss. Read on and you will see …
Bill and Anne are in a new market, and they need to get known by the consumers -quickly. They both know that first impressions are lasting impressions. They also know they have to be differentiated in the marketplace and for every day that they aren’t, it’s going to cost them a lot of money. This is not the only hurdle they face, but it’s a big and ongoing challenge. As is the case in every business, Bill and Annes identities will be on the line every day.
Candlestick makers are the engineers of times past. Even though they are simple merchants, they still have to follow processes. They experience design and production issues, and just as you are wrapped up in the science of your job or business, Bill and Anne must learn their market quickly so they can move on to the real work of running a business and making a profit. This is precisely where many companies die before they have fully taken their first breath.
Getting known in the marketplace is critical for any business. You probably classify this as branding. Most businesses, well the smart ones anyway, put a lot of time, effort, and money into this process. This is where most businesses go wrong. The first and biggest mistake they make is viewing the task of branding as a mechanical/scientific/hard skill event.
Corporations and small businesses pick a name and a tag line by an analytical process. They might use focus groups (which often are not truthful), surveys, or brilliant advertising minds. Now, if this really worked, businesses that use this approach would not fail and yet many do.
Their approach is all wrong. Getting known in your market is not a mechanical or scientific event. Brochures and advertising alone do not guarantee success. As important as they may be, market awareness does not come from a single process or a one-time event. A business should not launch itself, but instead introduce itself. Instead of declaring yourself, you need to explain yourself. Finding your niche in the marketplace is not a matter of establishing a beachhead but simply arranging your first date. It is not so much about staking a claim as it is about asking the consumers to dance. We fail when we perceive business as a transaction instead of a relationship in todays marketplace. Successful marketing starts with the tone you set about yourself.
Bill’s Introduction to the Market
Bill lost the coin toss. Now he is going to do everything, well, most everything, wrong. I knew you would figure this all out later, but I couldn’t wait to tell you. I’m terrible at keeping secrets. You might wonder why I would relate his story. After all, no one likes to read about a loser. But as you read, you have to remember that Bill’s story and the way he does things is just as important as Anne’s; because you need to learn from him, too. I want you to think of Bill’s marketing efforts as the rumble bars on the side of the roadway. You are smarter in business if you know you are approaching danger before you actually are in danger. Besides, more people can identify with the way Bill does things because many people are not communicating well in the marketplace.
We can learn a lot by the way someone introduces himself. If someone introduces himself to me and uses words like “just” to describe their job or “little” to describe their business, I reprimand them! They need to take a higher view of what they do. Recently, one of my graduate students was one of three final interviewees for a promotion. In our conversation, he said, “The strongest candidate for this job is a guy from Stanford (not the college where I teach) and …” I stopped him, and asked, “Who is the strongest candidate?” He replied, “A guy from Stanford.” I said, “I am going to ask this only one more time …” “Oh”, he said, “I am the strongest candidate.” “And if you dont believe that,” I said, “then you need to drop out now because you will interview like someone who doesnt believe they should have the job.”
You can also tell a lot about a company, organization, or person by the way they describe themselves. Lets see how Bill describes his new business.
Bill’s Candle Shoppe
Serving You With Over 20 Years
of Candle Making Experience
While you might not rank this as the greatest sign in the world, you might not think it’s all that bad either. I mean, to the average businessperson, the sign conveys service and experience. What could be wrong with that? Many businesses have a long and distinguished history they are proud of. Bill is letting people know he has the expertise to back up his business. He is trying to tell them how good he is and that they would be wise to use his services for all their candle needs. The only problem is, his sign speaks volumes to him and little to the marketplace.
Some vehemently disagree with my conclusion, so let’s consider a recent case study. All politics aside, let’s look at the 2008 presidential campaign. Hands down, McCain’s history and experience dwarfed Obama’s. When I asked a classroom of liberal Obama supporting MBA students if they were the hiring committee for the office of President, would they have taken even a second look at Obama based on his history and experience, they answered with a resounding “No.” Now, if past history and experience is so overwhelmingly important, why isn’t John McCain in the White House today? Because history and experience do not matter to most people.
People don’t care what kind of car their dad drove or where he bought it. They don’t have a family butcher, department store, or church. If you look at the parents of adult children today, they have at least two cars and probably not the same brand. They also have multiple TVs, and again, not the same brand. It is naive for a company to think long-term brand loyalty exists today.
Think about it, you are probably just like me. I own three different brands of TVs. I have a foreign and a domestic car. I have a Windows computer and a Mac computer. The harsh reality is, people don’t care how long you have been doing anything today; so deal with it, and move on!