stake your marketplace claim

Is your company brand image a Mercedes or a Ford Fiesta?

Before you try to answer, the key question you must answer to figure out how your company stands out from the crowd is, “what is your value discipline?”

The answer is not as straight-forward as it may sound.

Nearly 20 years ago, consultants Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema based their bestselling book, “Discipline of Market Leaders,” on this concept. They wrote that “customers today want more of those things they value.” This is as valid today as it was 20 years ago. Maybe even more so, when you think about the power the Internet and new technologies have put into consumers hands.

Don’t confuse value discipline with value proposition. A value discipline is the ONE component of that your organization chooses to excel at – where you will stake your claim in the marketplace.

In other words, a value discipline is a strategic orientation, describing how a company will provide value to its customers. A value proposition is a marketing statement, that clearly articulates why a customer should buy a particular product.

Some key concepts to review:

Operational Excellence

Choose this value discipline if your company can offer the best price with the least inconvenience. Do you want to be the Wal-Mart or the Dell of your industry? The best price may not mean the best quality – but customers who value best price and least inconvenience aren’t expecting haute coutoure.

Product Leadership

Apple Computers excels in product leadership. Think fast to market with innovative, cutting edge, market-leading products. Companies that focus on product leadership relentlessly pursue ways to leapfrog their own latest innovation. They constantly raise the bar themselves, rather than wait for their competitors to do it for them. With this value discipline, your products push performance boundaries.

Customer Intimacy

This value discipline means delivering what specific customers want, rather than what the market wants. Nordstrom is a classic example of a company that empowers its employees to ensure that every customer gets what they want. With this value discipline, your organization cultivates relationships and ensures your customers will get the best possible solution and all the support they need.

Your value discipline is central to every plan and every decision your organization makes. It’s not a marketing plan – but it is the key question you should answer before you start building your marketing plan. Otherwise, you could miss the boat in your marketing message, or you could develop a new product/service that flops because it’s poorly positioned.

For example, if you want to position your organization as a product leader, take a look at your organizational culture and your strengths and weaknesses, and determine if your organization can support this value discipline. Do you have the entrepreneurial, risk-taking culture needed for product leadership? If not, you’ll fail at this value discipline.

Or, if you are pricing your product to be the lowest of its kind in the marketplace, are you contradicting the value discipline of your organization? Do you want to be the Wal-Mart of your market niche? Do you have a culture that abhors waste and rewards efficiency, and streamlined systems in place to reduce costs? Being the lowest-cost leader means less resources spent on meeting every single customer’s specific needs.

Perhaps your culture embraces deep, lasting relationships and you delegate decision-making authority to employees closest to customers. Making sure that every customer or client gets careful attention comes at a higher cost.

You might be thinking, “we focus on all three of these things.” The concept of choosing a discipline is about creating breakthrough performance in one dimension – not mediocre performance in all three. Choose the one discipline that you want to stake your claim to in the marketplace – to be hands-down absolute best at. Then choose a secondary discipline to strive for.

That’s how you truly differentiate yourself from your competitors.

“There are three kinds of companies: There are those who watch things happen, those who make things happen and those who wonder what just happened.”– Anonymous