No One Can Be All Things to All People

Posted on by in Branding/Differentiation, Business, Customer Service, Design, Leadership, Remarkability

Despite all of the press, books and talks about branding, one of the major problems that most businesses encounter is the desire to be all things to all people. Why?  Because none of us wants to say "No!" to a customer.  What health club wants to say, "You’re not in our target market."  Or what church wants to say, "You’re not in our target market."  Or what retailer wants to say, "You’re not in our target market."  None of us wants to.  But the reality is that we all do based on the choices we make (for example a church that plays rock or gospel music versus a church that plays traditional hymns).

Now, lest you think this is a basic principle, I would encourage you to think through how many large companies (as well as mid-size and small companies) don’t get this.  For example, what does GM stand for?  Or how about the GAP?  Or your favorite Big Box store? Or how about the health club in your community? Or Microsoft? Or your local supermarket chain? How are they all differentiated? Rarely do you or I ever find someone who’s remarkable because they do everything for everyone.

Remarkable usually happens because someone has decided to carve a niche out and be truly extraordinary at that one thing. Cirque du Soleil  is remarkable because they’re not like any other circus  (however, if you wanted to see a traditional circus, you’d be disappointed).  Whole  Foods isn’t for everyone.   Build-a-Bear Workshop isn’t for everyone. Jane Austen isn’t for everyone.  24 isn’t for everyone (too bad!). Williams Sonoma isn’t for everyone.

So, if the "everyone" category isn’t available, what niche can you truly be remarkable at?  What one thing can you be truly great at?  What word or phrase can you "own" in the minds of your customers?

In you need some help with this, last week in Fortune magazine, in an article on Mall Star Analyst, Julie Schlosser wrote the following:

"To size up a specialty retailer, Buchanan starts with three questions. First, does it make an emotional connection with its customer? Second, does it try to be all things to all people, or does it do one thing well? Finally, what he calls "the five-seconds test": When he stands in front of a display window, can he figure out almost instantly whom the retailer is targeting?"

Going through those three tests, Buchanan had to rate The Gap as a hold. So, if The Gap doesn’t always get this, maybe it’s worth you and me asking the same questions about our organization or company or product or services. How is _________ remarkably different than all of our competitors? Do our customers get this? And are they willing to pay more for this?

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