Talking about his new book, “That Used to Be Us,” at a recent speech at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, best selling author Thomas Friedman said, “Average is over.  Everyone must define and develop their extra, that unique value add that justifies, in this world of rising curves why they should be hired or promoted.”   Friedman goes on to make a case that to win in the global market, American education must nurture students to become more creative and unique.
Friedman goes on to discuss the emergence of the “hyper-connected world” one where you cannot only outsource labor, but you can outsource “genius”.   This is clearly one of the driving forces that create the glut of solution providers in every imaginable niche in the market today.    While Friedman deals with macro nation level competitiveness issues, every day, the battle against average determines the micro level winners and losers in competitive markets.   The companies that win, rise above the mean because they don’t stop at average, they consistently go outside the mean in at several if not all of these key areas –
1)   Frame the problem in the customer’s view
2)   Drive experience
3)   Execute with focus, data and speed
4)   Maximize Customer satisfaction
5)   Iterate rapidly and successfully
Let’s take a quick look at why being above average matters, and how to achieve it.
1)   Frame the Problem – With the dramatic overload and availability of content, Breakthrough is critical.  Winners do an above average job of setting the CONTEXT for the market conversation, or framing the problem.  One way to win, is to create a compelling Viewpoint as I discuss here.  Average companies look to ride trends, above average ones create them.
2)   Drive experience – Buyers are now driven by experience over evaluation.  Average companies have product or brand managers building screen capture or other quick hit videos.  Above average companies find ways to create highly engaging, real or near real product or service experiences.  Experienceis the new selling reality, you better be great at this or you will never build a high velocity sales execution engine…
3)   Execute with focus, data and speed – Driving pipeline today, is all about execution and learning.  We’ve entered the era of A/B testing and we aren’t leaving.  Average companies understand basic data and use it to adjust execution, while above average companies drive operations and optimization from realtime data and analytics , using new and innovative tools and techniques like Totango’s Customer Engagement Management solution.
4)   Maximize Customer Satisfaction – We’ve left the world of purchase and support a long time ago, but many organizations have not adjusted their approaches and organizations.  Average companies measure customer satisfaction with survey and support metrics.  Above average companies have fundamentally changed their mindset and restructured their whole organization around the customer lifecycle, surrounding the customer and maximizing customer lifetime value.
5)   Iterate rapidly and successfully – Average companies run on release cycles measure in quarter or longer.  Above average companies release features and cycle in weeks, days or even hours.  In the world of realtime data (see 3), the new rule is iterate or lose.
Are you still average, if so, you need to invest or lose to the start up in Bangalore, Budapest, Sao Paolo or next door.  Friedman is right not just about people when he calls out to find that extra, but this is true of companies too.  What’s your strategy to be above average?
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