During my January 2020 #GhostingNotPosting, I found that I had more time to return to one of my first loves…books. One of them was Uncommon Service, by Frances Frei and Anne Morriss. There were many great points in the book, but one of them that really stuck with me, was the concept of…sucking.
Now, to be fair, the authors did not come out and crudely call it “sucking.” They did, however, suggest that great companies cannot do and be great at everything (just like people). In fact, the authors suggest that great companies are very self aware (“woke”?) of what attributes their customers want the most, then focus on what’s most important to the customer, and finally — and maybe most importantly, letting the rest of the other attributes go, because you cannot be and do for all, all of the time. Trying to be everything to everyone, greatly, is a recipe for disaster and failure.
Let’s take an example from the book: Walmart. If you look at their attribution map in the book, they win, all time with their customers — on guess which attribute…?
B. Rural convenience
D. Quality of Merchandise
If you picked C, you’d be correct. It’s not hard — think about it — they ALWAYS talk about “ALWAYS the low price.” It’s on all their branding — it’s in their stores (which by the way, aren’t exactly a place where I go to recharge my design and aesthetic self…hint that A would be the incorrect answer.) In fact, the attribute LEAST important to Walmart customers is…AMBIENCE!
Walmart sucks at ambience.
They, however, don’t care. Why? Because their CUSTOMERS don’t care about it! They’re willing to deal with the blah for the trade off of ‘ALWAYS the low price!’
There are other examples in the book as well. Furthermore, there are examples where you could focus on an attribute that may be important to a segment of audience in a current industry that has unmet needs. For example — what if you were the pharmacy that was 100% mobile and went to the customer (Pillpack)? That might serve the senior population that might not be able to drive anymore, and they along with their families would be happy to trade off price for the service of connivence. You could be the airline that is cheapest, but has no on board amenities (Southwest). That serves the nonbusiness traveler who might not otherwise get the opportunity to go away on spring break. You could be the eyeglass company that gives away a pair of glasses for every pair bought, and cut out middle men (Warby Parker), which serves the people who need prescription eyeglasses AND are passionate about helping others.
The bottom line here: people cannot be great at everything, nor can companies. If you think they can, you’re lying to yourself. Besides, who wants to be everything to everyone? B-O-R-I-N-G! Not me! So, ready to get on board with the suck in 2020? Here’s some suggestions on how to do that:
🍋The remedy for finding your suck in 2020:
- So, if you’re a CEO reading this — and you haven’t asked your customers lately what actually is important to them so you can pick something THEY care about….please….stop reading this article right now and go ask them. (Don’t hand this survey to your staff, either. Staff always has/have different ideas than your customers…and that little problem is called ‘bias.’)
- After you ask, line up the attributes, and do an honest assessment with your customers again of how your company performs relative to those attributes.
- Last, PICK 1–3 of the most important attributes to your customers and really ramp up/focus on those attributes upward in the new year. If you really want to win, focus only on #1. Be second to none in #1.
- LET THE REST GO! Seriously — stop trying to be everything to everyone. It’s not healthy or productive to be mediocre at everything. Instead, focus on what you want to do the BEST and LEAVE THE REST!
- The hardest step: Be okay with what you left behind. Don’t even try to band-aid it.
Being self aware is one of the best attributes a person or company can have for themselves. And when I say “self aware,” I do not mean “fixing” your weaknesses or even “enhancing” your strengths. I’m saying that we should not only be able to clearly articulate what we are great at, and what we’re not so great at, but celebrate the FEW things that we really want to focus on, and just let the rest of the menagerie go. I’m trying to do that for myself in 2020, and based upon what I took from Uncommon Service, think companies might want to consider this too in the new decade coming.
So, line up those lemons. 🍋🍋🍋🍋🍋 What are you going to suck at in 2020? Pucker up if you want to win!