Consider your business simply the best? Says who?

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I was watching the NFL playoffs the past two weekends and noted the frequency of a Pepsi No Sugar commercial. The background music was the Tina Turner song, Simply the Best. Also running with some frequency over these weekends was a commercial for Coke Zero. So, while Pepsi was claiming to be “the best zero sugar,” Coke was claiming to be “best no sugar ever.”

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/02/2022 (295 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

I was watching the NFL playoffs the past two weekends and noted the frequency of a Pepsi No Sugar commercial. The background music was the Tina Turner song, Simply the Best. Also running with some frequency over these weekends was a commercial for Coke Zero. So, while Pepsi was claiming to be “the best zero sugar,” Coke was claiming to be “best no sugar ever.”

Consider the money invested into the customer research, the development of the ads, and for the rights to use Tina Turner’s song. After thinking about all the work to create the products and the ads, I believe that neither company can make the claim. Only the customer can determine “the best.”

The topic of “best” also came up during a discussion in a strategic planning class I teach at the University of Winnipeg. We had a lively discussion as students considered the concept of “best.” We concluded that “best” is subjective and only your customer can determine what “best” is and what specifically you are “best” at providing them.

Typically, companies will become particularly good at something that is distinct or different than what their competitors offer. These traits are not necessarily “the best” because the best can be replaced or improved upon. Just like the Wild West, where there was always a faster draw, gun-slingers had a limited shelf life if they made claims about being the fastest or best.

So, what is a business to do? The ego of the leaders is often obsessed with a mindset of being the best. The challenge is that this is just their opinion. It is the customer that determines the best “fit” for their needs. And in the case of these soft drinks, the “fit” can include so many variables from taste to availability in stores and restaurants, to keeping the formula the same, and so on.

From this elevated level it is virtually impossible to stake a claim of “best” when the competitive landscape is so dynamic and there are so many direct competitors and potential substitutes.

Leading companies know they are exceptionally good at things and do not obsess about trying to become the best. Instead, they obsess about providing the best value for their customers. In my experience, these companies have the following foundational elements embedded in their game plan and they help ensure their customers are best-served, based on their needs and situation.

First, leading companies have an intimate knowledge of how their customers use their product or service to do their job better on both an emotional and functional level. This customer-centric view is known and understood throughout their company and is the focus for everyone in their daily activities. I have described approaches in previous articles to gaining these important insights about the job the customer needs to accomplish and how to determine what they value.

Second, leading companies are aware of their competitive environment and the implications of any changes to their customers’ needs. Creating strategy is not a “one and done” process and must be fluid and ongoing. Confirming that your strategy is still on track is an important part of your winning game plan. Understanding competitive moves and statements ensures companies are less likely to be blindsided by something new or improved.

Finally, leading companies are obsessed with doing great work and are not focused on something as nebulous as someone else’s definition of “best.” This is not the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, where the judges are looking for the best of breed. Your customer needs you to be obsessed about doing your “best” work on their behalf and providing them with the best value; not making claims about “best” something or other.

I understand the allure of making such claims. In sports, there are many analogies to business. There is a champion, someone who is the best — that season — in that competition. Business does not operate in seasons the same way. The business cycle is ongoing and there is no offseason. Your customers expect you to keep delivering the value they need throughout the year.

Forget “best” and focus on being good at delivering what your customers value on a consistent basis. At that point, your customers will tell their friends you are the “best” for them. And that is what counts.

Tim’s bits: Years ago, I took the Pepsi challenge. I am a die-hard Coke drinker. My first response upon the tasting was that neither beverage was any good and when pressed for an answer I ended up selecting Pepsi because it had a bit of fizz, even though I didn’t really like it. I shook the non-Pepsi sample and I learned the challenge pitted Pepsi against flat Coke, there was no fizz. If you are going to make any claim to be “the best” your product or service MUST be able to live up to the factual and emotional statements you make. Otherwise, your paying customers will ignore your claims and find alternatives. I still don’t drink Pepsi.

Tim Kist is a Certified Management Consultant, authorized by law, and a Fellow of the Institute of Certified Management Consultants of Manitoba.

Tim Kist

Tim Kist
Columnist

Tim is a certified management consultant with more than two decades of experience in various marketing and sales leadership positions.

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