Dare to be Different

Marilyn SanfordsmartPRENEUR Blog Series

Different is Important

“No longer is a “good culture” good enough to be competitive.  Organizations today must find alignment between their corporate strategy and their corporate culture, or risk never fulfilling their competitive advantage.  Too many organizations, especially within the same industry, look and feel the same to work in. ….in all of the ways that matter, too many are nearly identical in experience.”   https://academy.nobl.io/strategy-demands-a-deliberately-different-culture/

When I read the leading quote above, it made me think hard.   I’d just completed the two articles on culture and on vision/ purpose/mission.  Of course, our brand reflects our culture, but this statement really resonated.  I realized that Brand actually creates a link, a connection, through the corporation that brings everything back to culture and purpose.  What we put ‘out there’, as our Brand, has to align with what we do, both inside and outside our business and to be seen as unique, a differentiator.   The work, on Culture, Vision, Mission and Purpose, has to be lived inside and expressed through the messages we send into the market.  To be effective, it also needs to resonate.   If that’s not the case then the “organizations look and feel the same both inside and outside the business”.   

Your Brand Promise

Brand is the outward facing message that embodies the inward commitment to values, expressed through work on vision and purpose, delivered through business processes and revealed through the mission.   What is challenging and critical, is that it is uniquely yours.  To really dominate in your market it must differentiate, first to your employees and then outwardly to your market.  No easy task, yet so important to get right.  As I think about this, I wonder if that very challenging ‘glass ceiling’ that separates so many businesses from their goals, is an indication that they’ve missed this?  Essentially, what and how they’re showing up in the market isn’t seen as much different from their competition.  

According to Gallup, only about 50 per cent of customers expect a brand to actually deliver on what it says it will.  Easy to say, hard to live.  “Like every other founding principle of your brand strategy, your brand promise is a distilled understanding of every aspect of your company.  Rather than describing how you do what you do, your brand promise should describe the experience you deliver. A brand promise is a way for consumers to hold you accountable to the standard that sets you apart.

“This is your chance to communicate something vital about your experience, products, services or beliefs. Whatever that message is, it should say a lot about who you are.”  https://www.garyfox.co/blog/

For a brand promise to work it needs to be: Simple, Credible, Unique, Memorable and Inspiring.   Here are some great examples:

HubSpot – Help millions of companies grow better.

Nike – Inspire every athlete in the world.

Apple – Think differently.

Coca-Cola – Refresh the world in mind, body, and spirit, and inspire moments of optimism

Patagonia – We provide for environmentally responsible adventure. 

Walmart – Save money. Live better. 

Who Are You? How Are You Different?

What is different, that you know you can do or reasonably inspire to deliver on, that your competitors either don’t or, better yet, can’t deliver?   Why 50% of brand promises are not believed is so many companies don’t take this seriously.  Words, that sound good, not commitments that are believed or prepared to be met.   Work to ensure your message is aligned with your offerings.  Deliver a need that the market is looking for, or that you can educate them to do so.  

Lastly, your team buy in is part of this.  If for instance, a deal does not include equipment that meets your brand commitment or is discounted below what it takes to deliver the quality you aspire to, or in some way does not create an expectation that can be delivered, you need to be prepared to ‘right’ this.   Everyone in the firm has to buy in, to believe there is a relentless commitment or you’ll hurt rather then help your business, from the inside out.  

If a customer doesn’t appreciate that they need to pay for the quality you’re delivering at the market level you are targeting, then you either have not qualified them, are not in the right market or are not prepared to live your promise.  

About the Author

Marilyn Sanford

Marilyn is a Professional Accountant. She spent 23 years running trade based businesses, offering Low Voltage Custom Integration solutions to demanding and discriminating customers for high end residences and businesses. She has served on boards, taught in her Industry and is a Fellow of the Custom Electronic Design and Installation Association (CEDIA). Marilyn Co—founded Smart fx in 1992, merged with La Scala in 2000 and later acquired LaScaIa in 2007. Over the years running a custom installation business, she learned what it takes to run a profitable business dependent on construction timelines. These insights and lessons learned, delivering ‘skilled labour’ as a primary service offering, were the seeds that grew the LincEdge concept.