Defining Your Competence And Strategy
Defining your competence and how you are going to differentiate your company is the single most important strategic decision you will make. Why is a customer going to do business with you versus one of your competitors?
Truly successful organizations hone in on specific target markets. This enables them to effectively craft their message and appeal directly to the decision makers within companies or demographic groups that will want their brand of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Does your company have a clearly defined target market or customer? How is that information communicated internally? How is it communicated externally?
Define your target market and develop messages that will appeal to customers looking for your specific type of mint chocolate chip ice cream. Limit your target to a finite group of organizations or people. It is far more effective, especially for a small to midsize company in the business-to-business market, to create a marketing plan that targets a few hundred companies (or consumers) rather than several thousand.
Inevitably, you will be tempted to sell to as many target markets as possible. Resist this urge. Instead of trying to cast the net over the entire ocean, you’ll find you can increase your sales by focusing your limited resources on the primary and secondary target markets that are most likely to value your competence the most.
The competitive competence analysis examines your perception of how your competitors are trying to differentiate themselves. Answer these questions while completing a competitive confidence analysis:
• Who are your primary competitors in the markets where you compete?
• What is the perceived competence of each competitor?
• Based on their competence, to what level does each company differentiate itself on a scale of 1 to 10?
• Are any of these competitors delivering or trying to deliver a competence similar to that of your company?
• If yes, can you tangibly prove that you will deliver it better?
If you find out that your competence is similar to that of the competition, you need to go back to the drawing board until you define a competence that you can deliver better than anyone else in the market.
A brainstorming session aimed at strengthening your competence against what’s known or perceived about the state of the competition typically generates a lengthy list of action plans. It’s important to capture those action plans and assign the department plans that will include them. The focus of the exercise is to come up with a list of ways to increase the degree of differentiation and implement your strategy.
You have to reinforce your competence at every touch point your company has with a customer. That includes branding, business reviews, email signatures and your mission statement.
You must be able to measure and illustrate the value that your product or service brings to your customers. The brand strategy positions your competence in the minds of your target markets. Your brand is your No. 1 salesperson and it needs to effectively communicate your
competence and/or the value of your competence to your target markets.
One simple question –– What does your company do? Does your response effectively communicate your competence — your mint chocolate chip ice cream — in a way your listener will retain after the interaction is complete? Your mission statement developed through this process will effectively communicate why your company is unique and why your target markets should do business with you.
One of the leadership team’s primary responsibilities is creating a detailed vision that all employees can understand and shoot for. The vision contributes to strategy development by helping leadership specify what the organization needs in the future and why. It also serves
as a rallying point for the rest of the employees, instilling a level of excitement and anticipation.
A compelling and clear vision has subjective and objective components. The subjective components include how you want your internal culture to be described by your employees and what you want your customers to be saying about you when you achieve your vision. The objective components include the market and scope of the products and services offered in the vision time frame, and the strategic measurements and financial objectives.
To develop a powerful vision, you will need everyone to agree on all aspects of the vision, including what new products, markets and geographic territories you’re going to pursue within the vision time frame.
The next step involves developing and maintaining a tool called a measurement matrix. The matrix provides an objective view of your progress by tracking the results needed to achieve your plan. Establishing goals for each of the metrics requires that you tie the targets to your budget and performance numbers. Performing annual plan updates is the most effective way for an organization to methodically move toward its vision.
Before you can begin executing, you need to focus on resolving transitional issues. You’ll also identify goals for the next year, establish a plan execution program, and launch the department planning process.
The first assignment for the homework teams to prepare for phase 4 is to design the functional organizational structure needed to achieve your vision and strengthen your competence. You’ll need to include all necessary functions on this chart, whether they currently exist or not. This may or may not match up with current roles and responsibilities. While building the functional organizational structure, you should not discuss or assign any names to positions within the structure. All you want to do is identify responsibilities and functions.
Once a team completes its functional organizational structure, then ownership and/or leadership can place specific individuals in each role of the organizational structure based on the necessary skill set match. Consider the education, experience and behavioral assessments of each person in evaluating existing skill sets. Skill set misalignment –– along with not having an organizational competence –– is typically one of the main reasons a company under-performs.
The next assignment for the homework teams is identifying the systems and processes needed to achieve the vision. This is an important component for the first year’s success because you need to ensure that you consistently deliver your competence throughout the organization.
You accomplish this by consistently executing documented processes in every department. As you grow, the systems enable you to handle significantly more business with your current assets and team.
The last assignment is developing a list of three to five organizational goals. When creating goals, nothing is simpler or more effective than the tried-and-true SMART approach:
• Specific: Be able to answer who, what, where, when, and why questions about the goal.
• Measurable: Identify concrete criteria for gauging progress.
• Agreed-upon: In a team setting, gain consensus regarding the appropriateness of the goal and any incremental steps to achieve it.
• Realistic: You must believe the goal is possible in order to make it happen.
• Timely: Ground the goal in a time frame