When my daughters entered their teen years, I knew that “boyfriends” – a word that strikes fear in fathers everywhere – loomed in the not so distant future. Since it would be impossible to interview all prospective boyfriends, I opted instead for some advice: “Don’t listen to what a boy says”, I told my daughters, “pay attention to his behavior. If his head, heart and actions are all connected, you can get a glimpse into his true character.” (Insert a teenage eye roll here . . . ).
Your business also has a “behavior”. And customers notice it. These behaviors are typically embodied in how and where you compete. The more connected and aligned these behaviors are – whether it’s your sales approach, culture, organizational structure, products and services, market focus and even pricing—the more formidable you are in the marketplace. I call this Competing Cohesively and is the 4th and final principle of building a strategy that allows you to beat your larger rivals – what I call a Big Strategy™.
Take Southwest Airlines: Southwest flies standardized, low-cost 737 planes into 2nd-tier airports which have low gate fees and fast gate changes. With an enthusiastic and highly efficient workplace culture and policies like no baggage transfers and no meals, Southwest has connected its activities to create a core advantage of “friendly, reliable, and low-cost air travel.” Even in its early years as a small company, Southwest used this hard-to-penetrate, interlocking set of activities to beat larger rivals.
Perhaps a lesser-known but equally cohesive company is Cooper Tire – which sold last year for 42% above its stock price. Unlike all of its larger rivals, Cooper Tire did not sell to the major car manufacturers at reduced margins in an effort to win replacement tire business. Instead, it focused and aligned all its resources on serving higher-margin, aftermarket tire shops by creating efficient distribution systems, marketing support and pricing all connected to its core market of small- and medium-sized tire shops. The result? Cooper Tire’s stock outperformed much larger Goodyear and Bridgestone by almost 200% over a ten-year time period.
Competing cohesively requires you to take a comprehensive view of all your company’s activities. Ask yourself these questions:
- Are your offerings, marketing, sales approach, pricing, employees and partners connected to your core advantage or are they generic, looking no different than your competitors?
- Are you aligning and linking your activities in a way that your customers love and your competitors find difficult to penetrate?
Building a Big Strategy can be a challenging process, but I guarantee it beats trying to manage the dating lives of teenage daughters any day.