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Winning in the Marketplace – Exciting Strategies Get Results!
By J. Allen | Updated 2023 | Published July 11, 2017
Make a Difference in the Marketplace
Do you remember creating a market? Are you equipped to outmaneuver the competition? Are you ready to engage in the multidimensional chessboard of the strategic contest? Is your team open to transforming some of your business? Do its members feel “ownership” of the outcome? Does your team, collectively and individually, understand the insight into your customers, customers’ customers, suppliers, and strategic partners? Do they identify with their problems, opportunities, and strategic dilemmas? Are they truly ready, or are you just hopeful? Have they ever really engaged in strategic combat— competing tooth and nail, hand to hand, in the trenches—to win with customers?
Time to Look Ahead to the Offsite Planning
You’ve analyzed data, reviewed intel, and discussed strategy. The big summer planning session has now arrived, and it’s time to put these preparations to the test. The stage is set—the flip charts, markers, healthy breakfast, and large urns of coffee are in place. You’ve confirmed the prework investigations were completed and shared, and the new pre-read approach was digested by your leadership team.
You’ve personally held discussion sessions regarding the new market research results to make sure your planning session doesn’t turn into an argument or extended Q and A about the meaning of the data. You’ve had all the pre-arguments you need to have. You’ve told Bill he’s not allowed to use the occasion to showcase his thought leadership points everyone’s already heard; and you’ve asked Jessica to ditch the tiresome storytelling aspect of her contributions.
You’ve even cleared the idea of including some high-potential employees, up-and-comers in the organization, in your session with the core leadership team. Having run the scenarios repeatedly in your mind, you are pleased with your decision to include some fresh faces in the room. Fresh faces mean fresh minds and opinions. New ways of thinking are required, and, frankly, you don’t see any of the long-term management team stepping up with new ideas.
Here you sit, thirty minutes before the session starts, staring at your notepad in front of you—literally headlined, “How are we going to succeed this time?”—and thinking, did we really make a difference last time? Did we truthfully transform anything in the last year?
Is the space below the headline blank? Does it hold a few mild-mannered bullet points? Or is it full of clear, expectant, results-oriented statements that are cues to guide you through your planning session?
Do you have a set of specific, guided conversations that will result in the creation of your best strategy ever? If you can’t see that page full of specific actions, then read on, courageous leader—it’s time to get to work today so you can be ready for that day in the near future!
Does Your Team “Own the Business?”
Consider this calibration reminder: One of the biggest traps leaders revert to when under pressure is to simply repeat the so-called conventional wisdom or best practices of others. While that approach may work in some very isolated situations, your strategy session is not the time to back away from bold new ideas… You and your team need to own the business. I mean actually operate it like you own it. As if you and your team are on the line for any obligations. As if you need to answer at home for both the short-term results and the needed growth, scalability, and profitability to fund family priorities (life’s basics, education, retirement, health care, fun, etc.).
Would You Compete Differently?
How will you create a strategic, action-ready team committed to own the business and live with the results? How will your team make a difference, transform the status quo? How will it excite people about simultaneously keeping the lights on, achieving excellence, winning in the marketplace, and having margins sufficient to fund innovation?
Are your team members willing to dig in and explore how, if they were your competitors, they would make life miserable for your organization? Will you help them to see how to fight back? Will they understand the joy of helping others in your firm compete to win? Do you remember that joy yourself? Real leaders engage others to compete at work as they might away from work. They help others experience the fun of trying, adjusting, and succeeding in the workplace…and of engaging that competitive spirit sometimes hidden!
Start with Customers
Turn everyone’s energies back to your customers and your customers’ customers. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of your organization. It’s full of personalities, politics, and process. Don’t forget that the only reason your organization exists is to serve your customer!
You can build the coolest product or deliver the best service, but if it doesn’t add value to your customer, why spend precious resources to bring it to market? That’s not to say you should leave innovation behind—in fact, your team’s job is to anticipate your customers’ needs and create market impact where one may not have existed. Do you see your team stretching, reaching toward the customer further than they ever have, when talking about strategy? If not, help them out. Model the stretch; cite some examples. Help your leadership team see the potential for success and significance in the marketplace!
Here’s a way to check your work: Halfway through your planning session—as the flip charts fill up and people are feeling good about the progress and they break for lunch—do a quick review of the list. How many of the brainstorming results point directly to a customer need? If it’s not a majority, then you might need to do a course correction. If it is, then congratulate the team!
Every plan you make should somehow, even four clicks down the hierarchy, address the need of a customer or their customers. If you can’t track it down, then put it in the “to-be-corrected” list. Yes, there are no bad ideas in brainstorming. There are, however, ideas that won’t establish you as making a difference in your markets. You’ll want to isolate those and see if you can develop them further!
Again, consider the competition. Even if you can’t see them, they are out there watching you and learning from your trials, tribulations, and successes. If your team has really digested and embraced the prework for the strategy session, and fully explored the customer opportunities, then talking about the competition should be a lively conversation. Challenge the group to construct actual strategies to win. Discuss your STWO (strengths, threats, weaknesses, and opportunities) in the new order that you put together. Your time should be spent developing strategies to mitigate threats and maximize opportunities. A balanced strategy will acknowledge the existence of both the positive and negative aspects of the competitive landscape.
Have the mindset of intentionally leading, or following for competitive advantage. Have you heard the term fast follower? A company that deploys this strategy waits for others to bleed a bit on the cutting edge so it doesn’t have to pay the price of development, implementation, and recovery when things don’t go according to plan. It’s a good strategy if risk mitigation is a primary driver for your organization.
We helped one of our clients, a major financial services organization, understand the competitive landscape and how being a fast follower in bringing products to market would work to their advantage. This well-known international client used speed to market as a lower-risk competitive advantage, embracing the fast part of fast follower. They were able to improve already respectable profits 150 percent during the strategic term and to contain risk in a very volatile market. That was no small feat!
The Multi-Dimensional Strategic Chessboard
Remember, this is a combat chess game with moves, countermoves, and adjusted moves. You’re hoping to catch market participants asleep, even for a short time! Once you combine your view of the customer and your competition, you will start to have a good view of your market situation. You can think of your market situation as the multidimensional chessboard upon which your organization plays every day. Just as a chess player, your company must look at the whole board.
Ask your team to consider their next three moves rather than the simple next move. How will your competition react? What moves will they make next? How will your customers respond? Will the industry shift under your feet? How will you respond? Keep asking questions until you and your team are satisfied you’ve anticipated all scenarios, positive and negative, and have actually viewed the business situation as both current and potential competitors might.
Many leaders regret this lack of thorough analysis and lament halfway through the next year about the unintended and unanticipated consequences of their strategies. Like any natural ecosystem, the business world has equal and opposite reactions when you introduce a new (or eliminate an existing) component. Help your team members think of these potentials. If you feel like they aren’t digging deep enough, employ the Five Whys technique—continue asking “why” five times until the real reason surfaces. Irritating? Sure. Necessary? Absolutely!
Winning Is Much More than a Game—in Strategy, It’s Reality
Lastly, and most importantly, do the individuals on your team have the intention to win? I mean win in the market! Masters Alliance has engaged with over 2,200 executives—through one-on-one discussions, interviews, and intense team efforts— about their hopes and desires for their organizations. These clients were at the top of their game, truly excellent. However, even though we did not directly ask any questions about winning, we were shocked
(and a bit dismayed) that only 7 of the 2,200 voiced their intention to win. That’s less than 1 percent!
It’s not unreasonable for you to ask your team if they have the intention to win. If they can’t look you straight in the eye with a resounding yes and put their bonus on the line, then you have more work to do!
These four points—intense customer attention, live like the competition, understand and anticipate the moving market situation, and have the intent to win—should be what is written on your notepad for the future vision of strategic success. If you have these things top-of-mind, you are going to fare better than most leaders in your situation. Exciting strategies get results. They help you reach your full potential, unlocking the strategic power that lies within your company. Create a strategic combat culture; eliminate those obstacles to success!
We Can Help
If you are interested in learning more about reaching your full potential, unlocking the strategic power that lies within your company, contact us. We can help you get started creating a “Strategic Combat” culture and help you eliminate those obstacles to success!
We can help bring these principles to life with your organization – we provide the tools and experience to help your team step up and take action. We’ve helped dozens of our clients implement this new way of thinking in their organizations.
Masters Alliance is a 30-year strategic management consulting firm that has helped more than 130 client organizations in 21 industries in 13 countries gain a competitive advantage in their market. We help organizations develop and implement unique business approaches that work – faster than our clients ever thought possible.
We help clients achieve significant performance gains from a breakthrough understanding of their customers, patients, clients and markets.