When everything in the world around you is in flux, how to find the one thing your organisation is ‘great’ at can seem an insurmountable quest. However, without it, achieving a brand result people want to stick with is what’s impossible.
Because knowing that one thing will help you make and keep promises. It lets you focus on who you are and what you do. Make decisions big and small. It will help inspire and motivate those who work for and with you. It will make it easier for customers to choose you.
Your “one thing” is what’s MOST important. And the most makes it a scary line in the sand kind of choice. Still, sustainable, successful organisations have always staked themselves to their one thing.
But it’s not their only thing. No matter what industry the organisation is part of, they still have to provide service, be accessible, provide an experience, price what they sell and have something to sell.
In their classic book “The Myth of Excellence” Fred Crawford and Ryan Mathews identified the five general areas of excellence any business could fall into – product, price, service, access and experience. In their model, you can only be excellent or “great” in one. You can have a focus on a second, and the other three must meet basic expectations, or you won’t be competitive.
Think about any organisation you deal with, and you can probably figure out the area they have as their “one thing” and which is the secondary focus.
Walmart (or here in Australia Kmart) are price first, product second and access, experience and service are all much the same as their competition. In the US at least, Target flips the first two with product first and price second, something which allows each one to attract different customers.
Apple is product first, experience second with access, service and price not appreciably different than others. And no their “Genius bars” and stores are not about service, they are as much a product as the devices served and sold in them. A decent argument could be made for switching one and two, but for illustration purposes and absent the opportunity to dig into their strategy with Tim Cook, we can use them as is.
I love about this model because once you have the area nailed, you can deep dive into more detail about what defines it. Ok product is your thing, but what about those products? Are they lasting, the latest gadget, or must have useful? If the price is your thing, what about it? High or low?
You know the organisations who haven’t done the work. They continually change direction, flip-flopping all over the place. Trying to find something, anything that will “stick”.
And a bit like the smile that doesn’t quite reach someone’s eyes, they might say what their one thing is, but you don’t buy it because it doesn’t ring true. It isn’t evident across all the aspects of what they do and how they do it. So it feels like something they just want you to think they are.
So how do you find that one thing?
There are plenty of processes to help you along, but the truth is you are the only one who knows what your one thing is.
If you are genuinely stuck here are a few ways of looking at your one thing that I’ve used with various clients over the years. Obviously, I’m a fan of the Myth of Excellence model. But to go deeper, you can combine it with Jim Collins’ Hedgehog Concept from Good to Great. Or even start with Kevin Starr’s Eight Word Mission Statement.
Or you can find your own way. A simple approach I like and use is to ask “what’s MOST important”? Then keep asking until you have one answer that falls somewhere between “making money” and “world peace”.
Your brand is a result of the promises you keep. Those promises emerge from a bone-deep knowing of what that one thing is and then using it every day to shape the unheroic work of your organisation.
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