Yes, But You’re Still Ugly . . .

Once upon a time there was a man and a woman who had known each other for several months.  Over time, the man had grown quite fond of the woman and one day he finally got up the nerve to ask her out.  “I’m sorry” she told him, “you seem like a very nice guy, but I just don’t find you physically very attractive.”

The man was disheartened at first, but soon he was energized by the rejection. The very next day he started hitting the gym, and that weekend he got a new haircut at the most expensive salon in town.  Over the next several weeks he continued his workout regimen and spent a fair amount of his paycheck to update his wardrobe.  He even went to get a manicure and facial.

After about a month of his self-improvement plan, he went to the woman and asked her out again.  “I’m sorry” she once again told him, “I can see that you’ve really taken steps to improve your appearance, but there is still just not enough of a physical attraction for me to decide to go out with you.”

While one can certainly challenge the shallowness of this woman’s decision-making process, we can certainly see how businesses, finding themselves in the same situation as the hapless gentleman of this story, adopt the same line of thinking as they seek to improve themselves.

When I was at Sears nearly ten years ago, we had a new senior executive who spent hours and hours digesting the mounds of consumer research that laid bare the challenges we faced in regaining our competitive position.  He was struck by the analysis the showed how our target consumers rated us on important dimensions versus tough competitors like Kohl’s and JC Penney.   “I now see exactly what we need to do” he told us dramatically at an early morning strategy session.  “If we can just focus on closing these gaps, we can really make some progress.”

As I left the meeting–with strong visions of needing to update my resume dancing in my head–one of my direct reports turned to me and said quite sarcastically, albeit accurately: “great, our new strategy is to suck less.”

Better is not necessarily good.  Simply getting closer to what the customer truly values doesn’t engender loyalty and brand evangelism.  “New and improved” does not guarantee a win.

So are you going to be spend your time and resources merely closing the gap with your competition?  Or are you going to innovate, take a risk and leapfrog the pack to do something truly remarkable and-dare I say-beautiful?
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2 thoughts on “Yes, But You’re Still Ugly . . .

  1. Few Retailers understand that there are muliple touchpoints (described by Dan and Chip Heath in “Made to Stick”) that affect the Customer Purchasing Decision. It is the Retailer that has turned the most switches to “ON” that is the winner.

  2. Steve, Spot on! One of the common strategy mistakes most companies make is to close the gap or trying to do slightly better than what their competitor already does well. The result is neither differentiation nor disruptive innovation but simply boring similarities. In my mind, every company must differentiate with two offensive strategies (EXPLOITATION & DIFFRENTIATION) and two defensive strategies (PREVENTION and MITIGATION) within a 10 box strategy model.

    Within the context of this differentiated innovative strategy thinking, I put together a 10 box model framework based on the SWOTC analysis constructs. It is a 5×5 matrix of SWOTC for the company on the column side and competitor on the row side – with each one of the 10 boxes being filled with one of the following four strategies.

    1. Differentiation strategies are the “edgy” growth opportunities leveraging company’s strengths – DIFFRENTIATION or in your words, the seeds of disruptive innovation.

    2. Exploitation strategies are the “edgy” growth strategies to exploit competitor’s weaknesses.

    3. Prevention strategies are the defensive/preventive strategies to overcome company’s weaknesses.

    4. Mitigation strategies are the mitigation strategies to reduce company’s vulnerability from competitor’s threats.

    This 10 box strategy framework not only helps us to go on the offensive, but also helps us to guard us from competitors’ attack.



    My blog:

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