March 22nd 2021.
In recent times the majority of companies start by solving a problem or particular customer need and then build out on top of it.
Some smart businesses solve a need by combing a few needs together, the package and branding create a desire for that particular product or service and then it catches on, gains referrals and gains tractions.
The Large Company Example: Apple
Apple is the most famous at this. Steve Jobs for all of his known management and people management faults obsessed with only three things at one time and answered customer problems while packaging them together like a magician.
Apple famously followed this magic many times, firstly with the iPod, created a whole market with the iPad and most specifically with the iPhone, it’s been that way for fourteen years.
Given the choice, the majority of users would move across to the Apple ecosystem and then buy up and keep buying into the ecosystem once they are in.
Most recently Apple created a multi-billion dollar operation in the AirPods. Yes, Bluetooth headphones that most first thought was not much better than their parents Bluetooth headset for driving. How wrong were they?
There is an argument to be made it is down to age, brand power and equity, however, Apple is known for their quality, known for creating inspiration and aspiration in their product and marketing, but also, knowing where they can make smaller improvements in their core products that last without having to launch numerous products but large leaps in existing problems and releasing at the right time.
The New Entrance Example
Startups do well as they start small, niche and the bigger companies do not fear one problem being solved, what startups and smart companies do well is understand customer needs and builds out their solutions.
By the time the startup builds up and answers more problems, the incumbent struggles to defend and cannot attack.
You have likely been in one of the two positions, you could have been in the third, the thick middle aka the hardest fight, where you cannot seem to compete with the big player but the smaller more agile startup starts eating your dinner too.
Most recently the shift to subscriptions has seen many businesses move towards valuing their product or service monthly and suggesting to customers you have the choice to look around but the pain point and friction to leave is going to outweigh the price difference or the value difference.
With all this said and experienced, this has helped me to ask questions that open up leadership teams and make them face the battles they have likely ignored or not made time for.
Consulting with a number of companies most recently, there a few questions many if not all struggle to truly answer.
The four questions many just cannot answer are:
What are you uniquely good at?
What problem are you truly solving?
If you turned off all marketing – would anyone come directly to you and still buy?
What is your internal secret sauce?
These questions are designed to be easy to answer however they are crafted to make you rethink who you are, what you do and how you do it.
Great leaders have to be able to ask and answer these questions, not alone but with their departments, with the smart people around them and know if they are struggling to answer these type of questions to bring in the right support or external agency or consultancy to help improve their company.
Survive is not a strategy and is not something that helps teams buy into the company or the leadership. Survive is the bare minimum, despite how hard it feels this is only going to result in you creating an uninspired and unhappy workforce.
Going from survivor => compete => thrive can feel like a long battle however as a leader it is essential you and the company know how to and when to ask these important four questions.
As Q2 starts this is typically the best time to ask these questions and gain market intel on competitors to inform some of the reshaping of the business.
If you are struggling to answer these, you are not alone, however answering these four questions will help to shape your company’s requirement to improve product, improve training, improve internal communications and external messaging and refresh how you approach problem-solving.
Why not add these questions to your next management meeting or ELT and prep time for you and your colleagues to discuss this at length.
For one business, we created an internal motto; more deliberate direction = less reaction, more action. This was then added to the leadership principles.
Consider how you leverage both pieces of advice to progress your company this month.
Good luck for Q2 and keep driving forward.