Less bad, not yet good

Unless you are the #1 choice for your core customers, with staggeringly strong loyalty & advocacy ratings and nary a competitive threat on the horizon, you’re probably working to close performance gaps between you and the market leaders.

But here’s a potentially big problem. There’s a pretty good chance you are working to become less bad. But don’t confuse that with actually being good.

I worked at one major retailer where we analyzed a mountain of consumer research, identified key drivers of market performance and rated ourselves against our “best in class” competitors. On a scale of 1 – 10–across key purchase dimensions–we had lots of “5’s” and “6’s”¬†whereas the market leaders had primarily “8’s” and “9’s.”

At a meeting of our top executives our recently anointed leader breathlessly announced, with considerable fanfare, that we would drive all our efforts (all of them!) to close the gaps versus our targeted competition. He was confident that with the right focus and intense commitment we could quickly improve our scores to “7’s” across the board.

In other words, we would still suck. Just not quite as much as before.


He didn’t last long.

In my experience, way too much time, energy and money is spent in search of mediocrity.

And even on the rare occasions that a company is successful in closing the identified gaps, by the time implementation occurs, consumer expectations and/or competitive performance has shifted. The cycle begins anew. And you’re still #2. Or #3. Or worse.

Compelling, customer-centric growth strategies aren’t about shoring up your weaknesses. They are about being remarkably relevant and differentiated on the key dimensions of current and future customer loyalty and advocacy.

If you have major gaps to address, clearly you have to pass through the chasm of mediocrity to get closer to the other side.

But don’t kid yourself that you don’t have more work to do. Ultimately a “less bad” strategy is never a good idea.

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