If the entire Marketplace section of the January 4th Wall Street Journal is an indication of what’s in store for businesses for 2011, then investors might be in for a disappointing year. Brand name after brand reports it is stalled: Motorola, Borders, Chrysler, MySpace, Nokia, Yahoo, J&J, Kodak. Yet the turnaround strategies execs are cite are, I believe, destined to produce disappointing results: more and new gizmos, faster technology, finer segmentation of markets, cash infusions, leaner operations.
What they’re missing is the first and foremost best practice of business success, having a meaningful role to play in the lives of your customer.
For example, when there are already hundreds of smart phones and tablet computers, a new entrant will be hard pressed to gain any traction unless it offers customers ““not something technological or distribution-oriented– but a summary benefit of how the features and functionality that allows the user to live a more emotionally rewarding life than that delivered by alternatives.
Regardless of category, a company needs to frame a compelling reason to exist in the eyes of its users before it can hope to grow sales. Compelling does not mean incremental changes or new technology others can duplicate in a matter of weeks.
It has to do with a larger framing of what the company stands for—how it is different from alternatives in ways strikingly relevant to the customer. It has to do with how the product or service helps the customer be more of who they are or aspire to be; to feel less bad or better about themselves or their lives; to feel relief about the present or hope for the future.
Any company facing a make or break 2011 has to realize that success never comes from out-cutting, out-segmenting, out-gizmo-ing the competition. Rather, leadership by its very definition comes from seeing something meaningful others often do not see and insuring its delivered in your positioning, produce development, service and more.