My son and I watched a baseball playoff game the other night. The announcer remarked on the control displayed by the experienced pitcher working on the mound. Down in the count, the seasoned pro relaxed and even took the edge off his pitch, grounding himself in his capabilities and throwing the ball with confidence. The commentator noted that when young pitchers find themselves in a pickle, they tend to throw harder and then, even harder, letting frustration cloud their focus as their pitches become ever more wild.
How are you responding to today’s tough market? With experience and confidence? Or with frustration and anxiety, pursuing nearly any opportunity, regardless of the project criteria or your firms’ potential to be victorious?
As markets thin and become more competitive, fundamentals are crucial. To move forward successfully, you must tap your inner Socrates and “know thyself.” It’s imperative that you and your team are clear on your brand’s strengths in order to leverage and even exploit them. Understand who you are and make strategic decisions from a place of knowing. Remove random. Target.
Sound impossible? It’s not. Even in a tight market where the competition is fierce, your firm has an edge. The key is knowing where it is and how to sharpen it.
So, what is your edge?
Oh, you’re not sure…I see. Well, there are ways to sleuth the answer. I mean, clearly your firm has an edge with some clients, right? You’ve competed for and won enough work to confirm that you offer “something,” and I would suggest something special.
Here are three clear steps to mine your current resources and discover for yourself – and for your future – what differentiates your firm, why you win projects and even why, sometimes, you don’t.
1. Look in the Mirror and ask everyone on staff to join you. What do you see?Does everyone see the same thing? What are your Strengths and potential Weaknesses? Honesty and specificity bring value to this exercise, so don’t waste your time with simple platitudes and slogans. Dig deeply.
Now, look out the window at the external environment. Try to see beyond the wreckage that may populate your immediate market view and discern what may be verging on the horizon. Can you identify specific Opportunities? What about Threats?
Yes, this is a SWOT exercise (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), an intensely worthwhile strategic conversation to have with employees and stakeholders well beyond the C Suite. It’s an exploration and a reality check, as well as a fantastic team builder that begins to move your organization in one direction. While engendering a sense of ownership among all team members, a SWOT activity also avails a wealth of creativity to your strategy process.
While you’re all together, order some lunch and take time to glance into the crystal ball. Ask your people to imagine where the firm might go, what success looks like and how you might get there.
2. Survey the Marketplace by putting your competitors under a scope to see of what they are made. How do they present themselves? What does their brand say? Conducting a Competitive Landscape Assessment gives you a lay of the land, a map showing both hills and valleys to help you discover the path of least resistance to your success.
Of course, include your own firm in this assessment to discern how you stack up, what differentiates you from your competitors and how you might stand out from the pack. Competitors are a reality, we all have them. Being conscious of the differences between your firm and the competition brings strategic perspective and will help when answering tough questions like, “Should we pursue this opportunity?” and “What does the client need from a firm like ours to be successful with this project”
3. Ask Clients What They Think – of YOU. How do they make selections? Where do they get information to qualify potential vendors? What are their needs? Notice that all of these questions turn the table to focus on the client, the decision maker, the one who can make or break your business goals and select to work with you…or someone else. I hate to say it, but most firms are completely self-absorbed, vainly looking at themselves, their capabilities and their portfolio. It’s important to look at your profile, absolutely, but change the lens to view yourself through the eyes of your best and most desirable clients.
It’s also helpful to ask clients what they think of your firm, reaching beyond “You’re great!” to discover why you’re great, what positive qualities they associate with you, how you could improve your product or service and who do they identify as your top competitors.
Company leaders often feel they know the answers to these questions and, sometimes, they do. While conducting client surveys and interviews can offer eye-popping surprises, more often they provide a fresh angle on an existing perspective, a clearer path for a new direction and a significant boost in confidence as you make your next move.
Why is this important? Because outcomes from a client survey take the guessing out of the game. Talk to your clients and you finally KNOW. Be brave. It takes some guts to ask for their opinion, but the perspective? Well, it’s priceless.
These three steps really do add up. Synthesized, they become an equation for success, empowering you to eliminate minuses and highlight pluses. Square the remainder of the equation and you’re at the root of your most powerful brand position. It’s as simple as 1, 2, 3.
Looking to accomplish any of these steps? Contact me, I can help.