Part 4 of What a Go-To Does Differently: Ownership

This is the fourth installment of a multi-part series to talk about what a Go-To does differently from the me-too pack.

Now we’ll talk about a Go-To’s purpose in life.

A Go-To Has a Higher Purpose: It Takes Market Ownership of a Problem

A Go-To says, “I’ll take this one. I’ll own this problem.”  A Go-To fixates on a market problem (or opportunity) and declares intellectual ownership for that problem or opportunity, effectivelthinkstockphotos-485715206y becoming the ringleader, the primary thought leader, for related discussions and market activity.

Cisco doesn’t talk endlessly about sensors and routers, it talks endlessly about how the “Internet of Everthing” will save lives or reduce risk for companies. GE has taken intellectual ownership for the “Industrial Internet of Things.”

Kaiser Permanente, the large health maintenance organization (HMO), doesn’t just offer an integrated delivery system – where you and your family can get all of your health care in one place, with a single set of medical records and a  multi-disciplinary team devoted to your well being  – it believes this model is the way of the future. Kaiser has been running its “Thrive” campaign for over ten years, offering tips for healthy living.  Many of its ads don’t talk about Kaiser at all. Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 5.57.10 PM.pngThey address Kaiser’s higher purpose. One print ad shows an image of a jump rope curled into the shape of a human brain, with the copy, “Exercise doesn’t just make you feel better, offering a good defense against depression and anxiety. It helps you stay more alert and focused. Something you can think clearly about as you knock out just one last set. To learn more go to kp.org/thrive.”

According to Kaiser’s Diane Gage Lofgren, senior vice president, brand strategy, communications and public relations, and Debbie Cantu, the company’s vice president, brand marketing and advertising, Kaiser wants to play the role of  health advocate “completely dedicated to health and well-being with the fact that, no matter what their stages of life, people want to be as healthy as they can be.”

Salesforce.com was founded to solve the problem of expensive enterprise software implementations, with an initial focus on the salesforce. Facebook’s goal is to connect everyone on the planet. Apple created iTunes to make it easy for iPod users to legally download songs vs. illegal options that were rampant at the time. Cybersecurity firm, RSA, is regarded as one of the most trusted brands in its space and, as a demonstration of its “ownership of the problem,” hosts the world’s largest and most respected annual information security conference.

So it’s not just about solving a market problem. It’s also about keeping the conversation alive and working with the market to make continuing, collective progress against the problem.

What problem do you or will you own?

Part 2 of What a Go-To Does Differently: Beachhead

This is the next installment of a multi-part series to talk about what a Go-To does differently from the me-too pack. Part 1 talked about how a Go-To focuses. The next thing a Go-To does differently is build from a base of strength.

A Go-To Builds a Strong Beachhead Around a Central Theme Before It Broadens

Rather than a hodge podge of messages, products, services and activities, a Go-To builds its brand around a central theme/market, and every fiber of its being revolves around that theme until the company has enough of a dominant position to broaden from there into adjacent markets. Its activities aren’t all over the map. They are highly, highly focused.

  • Oracle gained its footing as the Go-To for relational database technology before broadening into applications a full ten years after it was founded.
  • Salesforce.com built its foundation as a salesforce automation application before broadening into other sales and marketing applications.
  • Accenture is a $30 billion company today but started in the early 1950s as a tiny consulting division of the accounting firm, Arthur Andersen, to meet audit client demand for financial and manufacturing process automation. The bulk of this division’s business was focused on these two areas well into the 1970s.
  • Facebook was initially only available to Harvard students; once strong there, it allowed students from just eight other universities to join. Not until it had a firm foothold in those markets, with others asking to join, did it open itself to most universities and corporations before finally allowing anyone 13 and older to sign up. Even with Facebook’s lightning-speed growth trajectory, this progression took two and a half years.

Look around. Just about any large company you can think of started with a beachhead.

51susyutxjl-_sx330_bo1204203200_Geoffrey Moore discusses the importance of a beachhead in market dominance strategy in his seminal strategic marketing book, Crossing the Chasm, which I highly recommend as a marketing primer to newbies and as a great refresher to everyone else. Using a D-Day analogy, he explains the importance of focusing your scant resources to secure a stronghold and then building from a base of strength. Much of what he talks about are principles many MBA students learned but have proceeded to ignore at their peril. It’s truly excellent and is a quick read well worth your time. Buy your own physical copy, mark it up and keep it near your desk for frequent reference.

One of the metaphors he references in explaining market dominance strategy is the use of kindling to start a fire.

The bunched-up paper represents your promotional budget, and the log, a major market opportunity. No matter how much paper you put under that log, if you don’t have any target market segments to act as kindling, sooner or later, the paper will be all used up, and the log still won’t be burning…this isn’t rocket science, but it does represent a kind of discipline.

— Geoffrey Moore

The key, then, is to figure out a beachhead – which market will you seek to own first before broadening?

More on the Advantages of Being the Go-To

I recently posted twelve reasons it’s better to be the Go-To than a me-too and then four examples of Go-To brands. Here’s just a bit more on they advantages of being the differentiated Go-To.

The greatest advantage is that you compete less on price, if at all.  In fact, you can usually command much higher prices than the competition, because you offer a unique approach and can promise stellar results. The buyer considers the benefits you offer to far outweigh your cost.

Another big advantage is that you are no longer part of the pack – you stand out. You are the first name that comes to mind when the buyer has a particular problem. And that buyer often will proactively seek you out, particularly when time is of the essence (as in the case of C. C. Myers when the freeway melted).

Often selling costs for a Go-To are much lower, because you’re not starting from ground zero in a sales situation. Your reputation precedes you, so you don’t have to work as hard as a lesser-known competitor to establish your credibility. You don’t have to prove yourself as much. You can cut right to the customer’s situation at hand and how you can help.

As the Go-To in a particular field, you wield great power and influence in the marketplace. You aren’t just part of the fabric of the industry, you sit at the top of the pyramid. You help set the direction of the industry. You have a vision others want to follow. As the Go-To, you are in a position to fundamentally alter the direction of the market.

Doesn’t all of this sound much better than scraping for business as a me-too and being pushed to cut your price?

Infographic: Four Go-To Brands That “Own” Their Markets

This is a follow-up to my previous post and infographic, “Twelve Reasons It’s Better to Be the Go-To Than a Me-Too.” As it illustrates, achieving market dominance as the differentiated Go-To in one’s market offers lots of advantages. I thought it would be fun to provide a follow-up with some well-known names that people in tech can relate to, though there are many, many more out there. Though all of these serve a variety of markets now, they all started with a laser focus on one core offering, establishing market leadership before branching into other areas. Once again, enjoy and share. Better yet, send me your own examples of Go-To companies.

lina-group-inc-4-go-to-co-samples

Strategic Marketing Infographic: 12 Reasons It’s Better to Be the Go-To Than a Me-Too

Image

Market dominance simply means becoming the Go-To brand for a particular market need and being so superior at solving that market problem that you are able to command premium prices, work with premium customers, and hire premium people. Any company, no matter its size, can pursue it.  Your goal is to get people to seek you out and have them so firmly believe in your ability to make a unique contribution that they will pay you whatever it takes.

The alternative is to be a me-too that has to scrape for business and compete on price.

There are at least twelve reasons it’s better to be the Go-To, and I’m sure you can think of even more. Enjoy the infographic and pass it along…

mktg-infographic-why-be-go-to-lina-group

Is This a Book You Would Read?

I’ve written the introduction to my book and wonder if some of you could read it (see below) and let me know whether it makes you want to read the book. Please also share why or why not (assuming the topic is applicable to you, of course). Would love your feedback in the comments section. Thanks!

Front cover design V4 Green croppedHow In the World Is That Person Making $30,000 a Day?

This is the question that started it all.

About six years into my consulting business, one of my colleagues told me about her close friend who had less hands-on client experience than either of us and was commanding $30,000 a day to provide expertise to top executives. The consultant’s name was Martha Rogers of Peppers and Rogers, the firm famous for One-to-One Marketing, which revolutionized direct marketing and spawned digital marketing. I was at once terribly envious and incredibly inspired. (You’ll hear Martha explain it later in the book.)

This conversation occurred while I was in the midst of a reevaluation of my firm’s strategy, because we, on the other hand, were being forced to lower our prices. Somewhere along the way, our consulting services had come to be viewed as commodities, even by loyal clients who knew our capabilities well, understood how deep our expertise was and had been engaging us for years. They were starting to put pressure on us to lower our fees and talk about replacing us with less expensive, less experienced consultants as though we were interchangeable parts. We were also getting pushed further down into the organization, with less and less influence.

Meanwhile, and quite ironically, we were finding it increasingly difficult to convince our clients that they didn’t look, sound or act any different from the competition; that it wasn’t clear as to who they were trying to serve; and that they didn’t have a clear message that resonated with prospects. Even software companies were beginning to face the same challenges, as competitors started matching them on functions, features and price.

These experiences were in stark contrast to my earlier experience in helping to launch and grow what was then called the Telecom Industry Group (TIG) at Accenture. Starting from ground zero and operating much like a venture-backed start-up, we had lots of market forces working against us and still managed organic growth to over $250 million in five years…in the midst of a recession. This despite the fact that, at the time, if you weren’t a telephone company, you had no credibility in that industry; no one knew who we were or what we did; there was no existing market for what we were selling; the industry was already dominated by a few gigantic, well-entrenched providers; and in many ways, we didn’t know what we were doing. Nonetheless, we managed huge and very profitable year-over-year revenue growth, became the dominant player in our target markets, and laid the groundwork for what is today a multi-billion dollar business unit.

What did Martha Rogers and TIG do right? What did my firm and most business services and software companies need to do to achieve this kind of sustainable differentiation in order to ensure ongoing margin and revenue growth? Somehow, certain companies were each succeeding at becoming the dominant Go-To player, actively sought out by customers and able to command huge prices relative to the competition, while everyone else languished as Me-Too providers competing on price. I became obsessed with figuring out the recipe, embarking on an intensive research and analysis effort.

One day, on a plane to Chicago to meet with clients, I sketched out a strategy for my company. With so many years of Accenture’s methodology and project management training ingrained in me, naturally it was a step-by-step framework in the form of a flow diagram. I looked at it for a few minutes and said to myself, “This is what all of our clients need to be doing! This is how companies dominate a market space and become the Go-To.” It was the basis for what has become known as the Apollo Method for Market Dominance.™

That was 1998. Since then I have been seeking out the method’s weaknesses. I’ve gone inside companies as a full-time strategy and marketing executive to find out what’s hard about implementing it in practice. I’ve looked for better alternatives. I’ve continued to research it. I’ve lived through the “dot-com bust” of the 1990s and the Great Recession circa 2008-11. And I’ve watched hundreds of companies go out of business, because they didn’t implement one or more of the key elements.

Through all this, it became clear that the approach works, especially now that enterprise customers are starting to demand solutions to their problems and not just generic products or services, a key underpinning of the Apollo Method.

My research and experiences have resulted in some fascinating stories, examples and analogies, which I share in this book. You will learn market dominance strategy and marketing lessons from the Apollo Space Program, which declared its “Moonshot” goal and set out to dominate outer space against all odds. You’ll learn how to build momentum in the market place around your point of view and solutions the way successful companies have done it; the way campaigns build awareness and support for their candidates; the way Al Gore raised awareness of Global Warming; and the way rock bands build a following. You’ll also learn why clients with specific problems will be just as likely to seek you out over me-too alternatives as heart patients are to seek out cardiac surgeons over general practitioners. You will read inspirational stories about how companies like Google, Oracle, Cisco, and many others each became the Go-To in a relatively specific area of focus and then built from there. And you will find out about spectacular failures and lessons learned, including some of my own.

Who This Book Is For

This book is for you if your company operates in a highly competitive market full of me-toos. It’s for you, if your company is having trouble differentiating from the competition and is competing on price. It’s especially for you, if your company sells some kind of intangible product or service to businesses – the kind of product or service that is difficult for customers to hold in their hands, evaluate or compare to others until they have bought and are using it. This includes IT services and technology service providers, software and software-as-a-service (cloud) companies, some product companies, computing and telecommunications providers, management consulting firms and other service providers. It also includes industries with similar business fundamentals and competitive challenges include architecture and engineering, law, environmental consulting, and other professional and business services. Regardless of the sector, you will find that many, if not all, of these principles apply and can improve your margins and prospects for growth.

What role do you play in your company? This book is for you if your work has a direct or indirect bearing on revenue and/or margins. This includes direct or support roles in business unit operations and management; sales, business development, and partner relationships; marketing; product, service, and/or solution development and maintenance; client delivery and support activity; human resources and training; infrastructure and information systems; and financial management.

What You’ll Get From This Book

One of my frustrations as a practitioner is that I’ve yet to find a book or even a piece of paper that lays out a step-by-step rationale and approach for executing a particular strategy or marketing program. I myself have written or created generic strategic planning and marketing methodologies, but they are templates – they don’t explain how to achieve a particular business outcome. There are plenty of methodologies for systems development, project management, process improvement, and even generic marketing plan development. But the weakness with most marketing plans is that there is a terrific analysis of the situation, the market, the competition, the strategy, etc. and then one big giant bucket of tactics you may as well call “Stuff.”

I’ve never found anything that tells you, step by step, how to win in your market. Neither have I seen anything that shows a methodology for deciding which strategy or marketing tactics to choose and how to best implement them. Shockingly, no leadership executive or board member I’ve ever worked with has asked for one. In presenting a plan, I’ve always expected questions like, “Of the thousands of options to choose from, how did you decide on those specific tactics? How do the pieces fit together and build on one another? How are these going to develop the market? How will they lead us to market dominance and attract clients? What’s the long-term roadmap – how do these build on each other over the next few years to build our brand and entrench us? How do these investments tie to business outcomes and how are you going to measure them?”

This book will give you answers. Chapter 1 talks about your commoditization challenge and why that is a serious a problem for your business. Chapter 2 makes the case for aiming to become the Go-To, as opposed to a Me-Too commodity competing on price and scratching for business. Chapters 3-7 take you through the Apollo Method for Market Dominance, step by step. In addition to a conceptual overview, you’ll get practical advice on how to execute key components. You’ll also see examples of how other companies have successfully implemented them. Chapter 8 gets you started by helping you develop a simple but profoundly powerful one-page plan to get you started. You’ll walk away with a game plan that you can start implementing immediately and refine as you go.

There is no reason why any business should have to languish as a thin-margin, Me-Too player when there is the option to become a Go-To. The key is figuring out how to deliver such superior business impact that your clients will not fixate on price but rather on the value you deliver. This book will show you how to do that.