Some people still don’t get it.

There are, in my view, only two strategies for any organisation:

  • To be ordinary with a focus on cost cutting, OR
  • To be a differentiator

But there is a third strategy and that is called market segmentation.

It’s not just me saying this. It’s conventional wisdom.

The late Professor Michael Porter at Harvard Business School knew a thing or two about strategy. In his 1980 classic book, Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analysing Industries and Competitors, he simplifies the scheme by reducing it down to three best strategies. They are cost leadership, differentiation, and market segmentation (or focus). Market segmentation is narrow in scope while both cost leadership and differentiation are relatively broad in market scope.

If you apply this thinking to professional firms, most are in the first camp. But when asked if and how they are different to their competitors, they say “we are different because we”:

  • Are approachable
  • Have reasonable fees
  • Offer a wide range of professional services
  • Open on Saturday morning…

And so on.

But the truth is that if you were to ask a competitor up the road, they would say exactly the same things.

So, not different at all.

Most cars are the same: 4 wheels, steering wheel, engine and boot. And, of course, a comfortable interior. Yet some stand out from the others. Take Mercedes for example, see how they show they are different in this advert about the grim reaper missing out and the driver saying “sorry”, here.

When I was in public practice, my partners and I built a practice that enjoyed significant differentiation. For example, instead of greeting a visitor with the words “Hello Mr Bloggs, would you like a drink?” our front-desk people said “Hello Mr Bloggs, the last time you came here you had a cappuccino with chocolate sprinkled on cream, now would you like the same today or would you like to choose something from our menu.

Yes, we “invented” the menu idea and I know it was mentioned and popularised in the Boot Camps in this country, the USA, Canada and Australia. It didn’t cost us very much more than when we only offered tea or coffee but its impact made a very big difference.

Of course, we had to do it properly. The choice made by Mr Bloggs was recorded and looked up when he next visited us. We even had a local restaurateur train our people in how to put a cup in a saucer and where to place the spoon.

It worked. And that combined with fresh fruit on the meeting table certainly differentiated us from our boring, staid competitors.

Think different” was an advertising slogan for Apple created by the Los Angeles office of advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day. It was used in a television commercial, several print advertisements and a number of TV promos for Apple products. The ad introduced the concept of The Crazy Ones and was meant to recharge Apple’s innovation efforts and Steve Jobs succeeded in doing so by thinking differently.

Entrepreneurs have a very specific attitude to things like risk, luck, convention and decision-making and they need to overcome these by thinking differently to address the similar issues faced by the consumers. Thinking differently can bring dramatic changes to a business. So, if thinking differently can make such a positive difference, then why don’t more people spend more time doing it?

Significantly shortened versions of the text for Apple were used in two television commercials, known as “Crazy Ones“, directed by Jennifer Golub who also shared the art director credit with Jessica Schulman and Yvonne Smith. According to Jobs biography, two versions were created before it was first aired: one with the actor Richard Dreyfuss voiceover, and one with Steve Jobs’ voiceover. On the morning of the first air date, Jobs decided to go with the Dreyfuss version, saying that it was about Apple, not about himself.

Watch the video:

Here are the words…

“Here’s To The Crazy Ones. The misfits. The rebels. The trouble-makers. The round pegs in the square holes.  The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status-quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify, or vilify them.

About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius.

Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world – are the ones who DO.”

Martin Pollins

Martin Pollins

Managing Director at Bizezia
Martin Pollins is a Chartered Accountant with wide experience in corporate finance and business management. He holds a number of directorships and has served on the boards of several companies, including those listed on the London Stock Exchange, AIM and OFEX.

He was a Council member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales from 1988 to 1996.

Martin Pollins ran his own firm based in Sussex and was the first Accountancy firm in the UK to advertise on television and Martin went on to create and launch the CharterGroup Partnership (the UK's first Accountancy network) and then LawGroup UK (one of the largest networks of lawyers in the country).

Martin started work on the Bizezia concept in 1996, developing the broad range of information resources and products over the past 18 years.
Martin Pollins
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