My favorite board game when growing up was Risk. I learned over time which countries and regions were best to own and defend and which weren't. Winning became easier after that. Monopoly, as many of you know, has some property areas that are better to own than others. Scrabble also has similar ways to win as my daughter usually demonstrates when I play an occasional game with her. Business is no different. It, too, is a game and those who figure out the rules usually win.
The Basics of the Game
Years ago, I had the privilege of attending a conference where Bruce Henderson, the founder of the Boston Consulting Group, was the keynote speaker. He gave some profound business principles. One, in particular, has had impact:
For too many companies, life consists of working very hard to make small differences in performance produce small differences in profitability. But the really significant alternations in corporate fortunes depend on those relatively few and basic decisions that enable a company to fight corporate wars with its best weapons...not those of its competitors...and enable it to choose the time and place where competitive strength really counts.
Having spent my life in food retailing, that resonated. How do you break out of the crowd and excel? Recently (Mar 30), an NPR blog edited by Eliza Barclay pointed out that "traditional grocers are increasingly losing market share some 15% in the past 10 years to more nimble competitors - " The losses are not new, but it reminded me again of Bruce Henderson's description of those "working very hard to make small differences in performance produce small differences in profitability."
Market share loss has been happening over the years. But how do you get off the treadmill trap?
Learning How to Win the Game
Henderson's key point, akin to that of strategy guru Michael Porter, is that accentuating your differences featuring what makes you unique is what triggers the breakthrough in corporate fortunes. It isn't just working hard and being the same as everyone else; it's in providing customers a clear choice.
Where to Begin
Start with an assessment of the current competitive gaps between you and your major competitor.
Consider these 6 key customer draws:
Also evaluate what Fredrick Herzberg might have described as retailing's Hygiene Factors, those conditions that customers expect and take for granted:
Given what we just learned about our competitive strengths and weaknesses, where do we focus on making bigger, more noticeable differences? The 3R's of Retail provide a helpful framework:
Food retailing is not getting easier; it's getting more competitive. Food today is sold everywhere from Amazon to hardware stores. The basis rule for winning is to find (or develop) your strengths that make you different in customers' eyes that provide them with clear reasons to return; to increase their visits to your stores and website; and to increase their spending. As in most board games, winning means doing some things differently.
The techniques and metrics Brian Woolf has developed have become guiding principles for those operating some of the world's most successful programs. He is the President of the Retail Strategy Center, and has consulted, and spoken at conferences, in the US, Europe, Japan, and Australasia.
Prior to his total commitment to loyalty marketing, his corporate roles included Deputy Managing Director of Progressive Enterprises, a major New Zealand retailer; and Chief Financial Officer of Food Lion, a leading US food retailer. He has an M.Com. (Economics) from the University of Auckland, New Zealand, and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.