Alex Smith, Vice President of Dickies Occupational, set the tone for the 2014 Business Development Conference with his keynote address. His goal was to “make us think.” Here are a few of the highlights:
Our business and the buyer landscape is changing. As companies seek to differentiate themselves we have seen changes to the industry with improved processes and advancing technology. Massive change is here and more is coming. It is vital that we have the difficult conversations with our executive team to be sure we don’t get left behind.
We are in a mature market. The life cycle of an industry can be represented by a slow climb of profitability through development and growth years to maximum profitability in the mature years. Then increased competition and a crowded market drive profits down as the industry declines. These facts are an opportunity if we look at it with the right attitude.
What’s Your Strategy?
So how do we expand our business in a mature market? One method employed by the national chains is to “milk the cash cows” to fund expansion in other areas. We have seen many of the nationals use their rental income to fund expansion into Jan|San and other cleaning services.
Another method of expansion is to think “smaller” by targeting and perfectly serving niches within their existing customer base and prospects. Identify overlooked or emerging needs and addressing them with leading-edge products and solutions.
The Dickies Method
I am a firm believer that my job is to get the strategy right, get the people right and get the execution right. Everything else will fall into place. With a strategy built around a people-centric culture, we start with our great products. We then try to find ways we can innovate with our product line through design or changes to operations and delivery. Every experiment is tested and optimized. That gives us data that we can measure. Then it becomes clear the direction we should take in the next great product, continuing the cycle of improvement.
At the core of this process of innovation are questions we have to ask ourselves:
- Who is my customer?
- Why should they choose us over the competition?
- It’s also important is asking who are customer is NOT.
- We also need to ask what are our customers are looking for.
- What is the outcome of asking these questions?
- How are we different or specialized?
What is your Because?
These questions can be summed up by asking ourselves “what is our because?” In other words, what is our unique and differentiating feature that sets us apart and focuses our vision? Coors Light researched needs of the market and decided to focus on a specific niche. Their marketing and product were specifically geared to deliver on the promise of “Cold and refreshing beer.” That focus in their product and marketing as “the world’s most refreshing beer” drove them to the number two spot in American sales.
It seems that acceptance is much more easily obtained if you give a compelling reason. We can employ the tactic by reminding our customers why they buy from us, reminding them of the ways that our products are different from the competitors.
Innovation is not just a slogan, it’s an operating principle. You want to engage every single person in your company to find a better way. You want to champion them for doing it and make a celebration out of what they improve; whether it is a more efficient accounting system, launching a new product line, entering an adjacent market, or revamping your service model. We run faster and harder than our competition and deserve to win. Our people and actions must be our competitive advantage. Those are the real innovations. And together, with every mind in the innovation game, we will compete and win. It’s about innovation as a corporate culture. The time is now. It is ours and yours. Let’s go get it.