I opened the birthday card to find a silver metal cutout of the word FABULOUS glued to a background of shiny fuchsia ribbons. The message was wonderful to receive, for sure. Looking at the card days after my birthday, I realize the word FABULOUS is an important word for all of us as we begin a New Year in our organizations.
Competing on more than price is getting increasingly difficult. There is excess supply in many markets. Many customers face financial pressures and want a bargain. They find them as they have more buying power than ever, be they a consumer with access to the Internet, or a business offering large contracts that you do not want to lose. The only way past competing on price is to offer your target market benefits that are relevant, unique, and hard for competitors to copy.
Put simply, you need to be FABULOUS at something that matters to your customers.
Easier said than done, to be sure. But that is precisely why being fabulous at something is so important. If you are fabulous at something – or tremendous, wonderful, great, amazing, or any other synonym you choose to use – that something is often hard to copy.
Who is FABULOUS?
- Sunshine Laundromat in Brooklyn is fabulous in turning a mundane chore into fun by offering pinball machines, a bar, and a coffee barista complete with welcoming pictures of clients’ families and pets on its walls.
- BMW’s sense of design is so fabulous it was able to take its brand into a new category with the Mini Cooper.
- Tom Hanks in acting. Whatever the role, we forget it’s Tom Hanks on the screen and become immersed in the character he fully occupies. By comparison, think about Tom Cruise. He’s always Tom Cruise. (Go see Bridge of Spies, a great movie.)
- Mary Oliver in poetry. Her keen observation of nature reminds us to slow down and appreciate the nature of our lives. She’s a fabulous poet and worthy to have served as our nation’s poet laureate.
- Apple is fabulous at design — or, at least, was under Steve Jobs.
To become FABULOUS, you must choose not just where you will excel, but where you will not try to excel. The poet Mary Oliver, for example, will never excel as a CEO. Being all things to all people is a sure-fire recipe to be often considered, but rarely selected. Samsung’s phone products appear to me to be caught in this no man’s land, trying to win on low cost, design, and new features. Can someone tell me the core reason to buy Samsung?
Pull your team together and draw four circles on a flip chart or whiteboard:
- In the first, write down what you already excel at or could excel at versus your customers’ alternatives. Sunshine Laundromat’s owner had a fabulous collection of old pinball machines.
- In the second, capture what your customers (or potential customers) need. Sunshine Laundromat’s commercial laundry machines must work well.
- In the third, describe what customers can’t find in the market — compromises they take for granted with the current alternatives. Laundromats are boring, and usually too noisy for reading. Wasted time, that’s the compromise in using commercial do-it-yourself laundry services.
- In the fourth, write down what you feel passionate about or love to do as an organization. The owners of Sunshine Laundry were passionate about pinball back in college.
When you’re done, step back and look at all four circles. Is there any overlap, any intersection, between them? If not, you’re going to have a hard time being rewarded for being FABULOUS in the marketplace. Try creating different circles for different types of customers. Stay at this exercise until you find an area where you can excel, serve a fundamental customer need, fill a gap in the marketplace, and be passionate about it!
The final answer must meet three criteria:
- Your target customers and prospects benefit.
- You’re better or can design your systems to be better than the competition on this dimension.
- You can charge more than it costs you to be fabulous in this area.
Capture what you’re fabulous at in a value promise that will appeal to current and new customers. Duluth Trading (disclosure: I own stock) is fabulous in designing, testing, and telling the story of their products. Their value promise: ingenious gear that solves problems for people who work out of doors, covered by our “no-bull guarantee.”
2016 – make it the year of becoming FABULOUS.
More articles by Kay Plantes
- Consistency builds brand equity
- Fearing inflation, deflation becomes the unnecessary evil
- Apple’s winning business model keeps winning
- Practice creates strategic agility for the Green Bay Packers
Kay Plantes is an MIT-trained economist, business strategy consultant, columnist and author. Business model innovation, strategic leadership and smart economic policies are her professional passions. She resides in San Diego, California but still considers Madison home. She is the author of Beyond Price.The opinions expressed herein or statements made in the above column are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WTN Media, LLC. WTN accepts no legal liability or responsibility for any claims made or opinions expressed herein.