You probably already know that in order to grow your business and compete effectively in your market, you need to find a way to stand out from the crowd. This is easier said than done, which is why we have come up with a method you can follow to find your unique offering.
In his 2012 book “The Pumpkin Plan: A Simple Strategy to Grow a Remarkable Business in Any Field,” author and entrepreneur Mike Michalowicz identifies a differentiation strategy called “Area of Innovation” or AOI.
The concept behind AOI is that you make sure you compete reasonably well in most areas of your business, but choose one area where you super-excel. If you can find a way to be ten times better than anyone else in one area, and continue to develop your dominance in that area, you not only have an AOI, you have a way to stand out in your market to the extent that you eliminate the competition.
AOI can be broken down into three categories:
It is nearly impossible to dominate in more than one category, so choose one and go for it! In this post, I am going to expand upon the area of “Quality.” Stay tuned for future posts on Price and Convenience.
The term “Quality” for the purpose of determining your AOI does not mean overall “high quality.” It means one specific quality about your company. For example, maybe you offer over-the-top customer service, or you are the most accurate, or the most reliable, or the longest lasting, etc. An example of a company that competes on quality is Maytag. They are the most dependable – their appliances rarely break, hence the “lonely Maytag repairman.”
Another company that competes on a quality is Quirky. Quirky is a company that produces new inventions in a unique way. Anyone can contribute a new idea for a product, and then their team and other Quirky members evaluate the product, vote on it, and contribute to its development. Everyone who contributes receives a royalty if the product goes to market.
Quirky’s AOI is speed. It has an incredibly quick turnaround time. In its partnership with GE, Quirky was able to develop a new light bulb in a quarter of the time that it would have taken GE, the light bulb specialists, to do it.
Quirky’s underlying structure, culture and policies enable them to move quickly in a technology marketplace that is constantly changing, giving them an advantage. Moving quickly often means long work hours for their employees. They keep their people motivated and avoid burnout by instituting blackout periods. For three weeks each year, the company completely shuts down. This means everyone is forced to take that week off, and no one will be tempted to call in or work from home. Shutting down the whole company gives every employee time to recharge their batteries and keep their creative juices flowing.
They also have 6 core values that everyone who works at the company is aware of and asked to buy into:
1. Getting Things Done
3. Embrace Conflict
These core values guide the company to move quickly and produce cutting edge products.
Another way that they stay ahead of the competition is by challenging the status quo and breaking commonly adhered to marketing rules. Most companies try to “wow” their customers by under-promising and over-delivering. Quirky’s motto is “Over Promise, Over Deliver.” In this way, they hold themselves accountable to fast turnaround by announcing to the world what they will deliver and when, and then they push themselves to get it done.
Quirky is a great example of how you find and develop a quality in which to excel. If you want to do the same thing, ask yourself
- What underlying values and company culture contribute to making you unique?
- What do you already naturally excel at?
- How can you create supports and policies within your business that enable you to get better and better in this area, and to dominate the field?
If you can identify and build on your AOI, you will get noticed and attract those customers who want what you have to offer.
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