If you’ve ever had kids, you know you will end up watching a lot of movies
that you might otherwise skip. Years ago, one of my children dragged me to
“March of the Penguins,” and, as expected, it wasn’t my favorite film ever.
If you’ve never seen it, it focuses on one penguin who searches endlessly for
a partner. Finally, after miles and miles without much luck finding other
birds, he shuffles over a high hill and sees tens of thousands of penguins.
This is where he’s going to find a mate.
He starts chirping loudly, but the problem is that thousands of other
penguins are also chirping loudly, so he hardly sticks out. And even though I
didn’t come away a big penguin fan, that one scene did seem to be a perfect
example of poor strategy. We (businesses) are chirping and all of us sound
the same. We’re making a lot of noise, but it’s almost impossible to stand out
when you’re competing with others who are doing the same thing.
You Can’t Eliminate the Noise, but You can be
Whether you’re a mating penguin or a determined entrepreneur, you are
surrounded by competitive noise. I’m not telling you anything new when I
say that consumers are exposed to thousands of messages each day. You
can’t eliminate the competition, but you can revise your business strategy.
Start by letting go of “the best” title. Everyone says they are superior. Even
businesses with clearly inferior competitors can’t convincingly claim that
they are the best. It’s a standard marketing message that was invented the
same day advertising was created back in the Stone Age. It’s a parity
message, and it’s a complete waste of time.
No matter how much better you are than your competition, saying you’re the
best won’t get the attention of customers, and it certainly won’t convince
them. Your best prospects have already encountered hundreds, even
thousands, of businesses that have claimed to be the best, and most didn’t
live up to their own hype.
Do Things That Prove You’re the Best
Focus on doing the kinds of things that clearly position you as a leader and
an expert. And do things in ways that communicate confidence in the quality of your products or services. Instead of saying you’re the best, work on proving it.
So instead of saying you’re the friendliest repair shop, start learning your
customers’ names. Train your staff to take time to talk to clients, learn about
their lives, and understand how they use their vehicles.
Instead of saying you’re the fastest lunch spot in town, start offering a 5-
minute guarantee, telling customers that they have their food in 5 minutes
or the meal is free.
Instead of boasting that you’re the best law firm, start publishing articles for
the local press, become the go-to firm for local TV stations, and get your
lawyers to teach at the local university.
Doing things that position you as a leader is WAY more effective than simply
saying you’re the best. When you greet customers by name, when you offer
a ground-breaking guarantee, or when you’re all over the local media, your
best clients will see that your company is the best without you ever chirping
Avoid Sacrificing Competence for Convenience
I often talk to business owners who know what their customers really want,
but the owners also have a dozen reasons why doing the right thing “won’t
work.” It’s too hard, too expensive, or no one else does it.
In fact, I’m sure you can immediately give me a dozen reasons why the three
examples I just shared (of being the best) will never work. Allow me to beat
you to the punchline…
In my first example, that friendly repair shop would have to do everything
differently. Do you know how hard it is to remember faces and names? And
to get all of your staff to do it? And do you know how angry some customers
get when the people ahead of them in line are just chatting about their day?
And how can you possibly track the use and background of each vehicle?
What about a 5-minute guarantee? How can they possibly serve lunch, every
time, in 5 minutes? What if there are long lines? What if there are tons of
people? How can the kitchen handle that volume?
And the law firm can never be on TV or in articles because they might say or
do something wrong. How can they ask partners to teach a class? When will
they handle cases? It’s the most inefficient approach in the world!
But the truth is, in each of these three examples, those businesses
absolutely COULD be those things, but these changes will require that they
rethink how many parts of their business work. They will have to commit to
spending more time making their customers happy. Instead of being good
enough, they will have to commit to being extraordinary.
Meeting customer needs in the ways your competition can’t (or won’t) isn’t
always efficient, but it is effective. This approach isn’t the easy way. And
that’s why most businesses never do it.
Stop choosing convenience over competence. When it comes to your clients
or patients, or customers, stop choosing efficient processes and start making
effective choices that result in a a company that attracts profitable, loyal
When you begin building a company that stops taking the lazy route (saying
you are the best) and goes well out of its way to do things that make it the
best, you are no longer chirping. You’re clearly better and every customer
Be Brave. Be Different.
If you want your business to be better, bigger, and more profitable than your
competitors, you must do things differently. And doing things differently is
difficult and inconvenient. But I’ve built a series of multi-million dollar
enterprises on this principle, and I’ve helped thousands of companies do the
same thing in over 100 countries around the world. So I know it works.
If you’re ready to be brave and be different, shoot me a line, and let’s talk
about ways to get started. firstname.lastname@example.org