Find out and do something different
I know the world of social media uses as one of its main platforms the idea of trending as an indicator of what someone should follow. However, this means that a few will have set the trend while many others will simply be hanging onto their coat tails. I am reminded of the quote from James Goldsmith
“if you see a bandwagon it’s already too late!”
I have always considered benchmarking to come with similar problems to trending. You look around to see what other companies are doing, use this to create a performance benchmark and adopt it as your own approach. The problem then is that most companies are doing similar things in similar ways which feels like a gentle progression towards mediocrity.
By all means look at the trends and also benchmark what others are doing but the clever thing is then to do something different, even consider doing the opposite. I saw a post on LinkedIn recently suggesting in-bound marketing has lost its advantage due to overuse and too much poor quality content – is anyone surprised by this? The post included a question as to whether outbound direct might be the way forward – again the person asking the question is looking at the dust from a bandwagon – some of us have always done it this way and may be reaping the benefits of fewer competitors.
When choosing which fashion to follow, assess the risks, not just the benefits
I once met Stanley Kalms, when he was still chairman of Curry’s, and he explained his “contradictory management” philosophy. Basically, he would observe how managers were doing their jobs and as soon as a pattern emerged he would issue an instruction to do things in a different way. His view was that it stopped people getting into a rut and forced them to regularly have fresh thoughts. A similar philosophy was used by someone I once worked for whose advice was to clean house regularly; suppliers, customers, markets, products and sometimes even our people.
So give this some thought.
- If you have been doing the same things in the same way for say 24 months, take a hard look to see if you are ahead of the pack or in a rut
- Look at what you do and how you are doing it and if most others are doing it the same way consider a change – revolution not evolution
- If you look at trends do so with a critical eye looking for a different edge for yourself
- If you benchmark do so with a critical eye looking at the weaknesses rather than envying the perceived strengths
- Decide on the five, six, ten things that really matter to the business; the true critical success factors, and take a regular hard look at each of them to see if they are still as effective as you thought they were. If these things are critical, it is critical they are done right.
The bottom line is; if you really want to differentiate yourself from your competitors you need to be doing different things or the same things differently, but whichever way, they need to be done well. Just ask your customers; they are a great source as they have the only opinion that really matters.
First published on LinkedIn Pulse