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Strange success

Daniel Cable offers an unusual approach to make your company stand out in the eyes of your customers.

By Dan Cable 01 March 2008

Daniel Cable offers an unusual approach to make your company stand out in the eyes of your customers.
Strange successIf you want your organization to be great, it must not be normal; it must be different enough from the competition to create something noticeably better in the customer’s eyes. When customers interact with great organizations, they notice something special about its products, prices or services that makes them say “wow” and tell other people about their experience. If your workforce is supposed to create or deliver what your customers want, but is just about the same as your competitors’, what exactly will customers notice about you? Nothing. What will make them excited about your organization? Nothing.

Let’s face it: Your workforce must impress customers profoundly if you want to build a great organization. Welcome to the concept of the strange workforce. I use the term strange to mean out of the ordinary, unusual or striking, differing from the normal. A strange workforce creates something customers notice and makes them want to do business with you.


The workforce as a competitive advantage


In order to differentiate your business from competi- tors, you have no doubt analyzed many factors that can make your offering superior to theirs. However, have you considered whether your workforce is providing you a competitive advantage? Following are three obvious truths about the workforce:



  • First, your workforce obviously must create something valuable to the marketplace; that is, there must be customers who want or need what your workforce does or creates, who are willing to pull dollars out of their wallets or budgets and give them to your company. However, if there is money to be made doing something, then other organizations are likely to do it too.
  • So, secondly, your workforce also must create something rare, something unique, that sets your organization apart. Your workforce needs to have a special capability that makes customers say, “Sure, I could get this from seven different companies, but this company does this best, so I’m giving them my money.” It might be the lowest price, the quickest delivery time or the comfort of talking to a person who remembers customers’ names and what they usually order. Your company needs something to differentiate it that adds special value in the minds of customers.
  • Third, if your organization’s special capability is easy for competitors to copy, you don’t have a sustained competitive advantage. To keep a competitive advantage over a long period of time, you need to do something hard to imitate, something that competitors can’t see or understand, or, even if they can, something they are not willing or able to do in a way that customers appreciate.


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