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Differentiating the Needle in a Haystack

Differentiating the Needle in a Haystack

I walked the Canton Fair this week in Guangzhou, China. If you haven't been, think of the biggest mall in America, on some freakish commercial growth steroids. It is absolutely enormous. Canton is a moment of truth for over 23,000 sellers/factories, displaying their wares on 10 million square feet to entice and connect with 200,000 retail buyers from just about every country on earth. It’s a semi-annual spectacle of differentiation – often attempted and sometimes achieved.

The concentrated mass is a powerful reminder: if you can’t differentiate yourself from your competitor, your customer is as likely to find you as she is a needle in a haystack.

I sat down in a corner of one of many huge exhibition halls, and talked for an hour with one of the sellers. We talked about their product, retail markets, how to connect with its most desirable slice, and the fact there are no silver bullets, no pre-packaged answers, except the hard work of studying the market, innovating product, analyzing sales and customers, and fine-tuning value proposition and execution.

That hard work of driving profitable growth requires many tools, the kind of tools needed to create demand, align for profit, and harvest demand. I found three basic questions to be a good starting point and useful guideposts in this quest:

  • What am I (or is my company) really good at – capabilities or skills?
  • What do I (or does my team) love to do – passions or guiding principles?
  • What is the need or want – market demand?

Henry Ford famously said the secret to a successful business is to simply “find a need, and fill it” (last and first bullet point); I would add that without passion and guiding principles, we risk addressing a need we're capable of filling, but lack the conviction to fill better than anyone. Without passionate execution we and our employees risk becoming flags in the wind instead of market leaders.

In competitive markets, it’s essential to differentiate yourself so customers find you and come running to you. These three questions help me define and build (re)ALIGN, guide me to build and sharpen my clients' businesses (and my repeat business), and helped you find me in a haystack.

You are reading this blog, aren't you? Now how can you attract more of the right customers?

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