Book Report: Why Should I Choose You?

why-should-i-choose-you“This book is about discovering your unique identity as an organization and being able to express that in a simple and compelling way. It is about revealing what it is about you that makes you uniquely remarkable at your very core. It is about making sure that every element of your organization – everything you do – is aligned with what makes it uniquely remarkable. It is about learning how to stay focused on the one magical, unchanging quality that makes you distinct. And it is about being able to tell others who you are and what you do in a simple and inspiring way.” (Why Should I Choose You?)

Title: Why Should I Choose You? Answering the Most Important Question in Business in Seven Words or Less

Authors: Ian Chamandy and Ken Aber, with Howard Lichtman

Publisher: Collins

Publication Date: 2015

Origin: It’s not a particularly glamourous origin story: I spotted Why Should I Choose You? when I wandered around Chapters to kill some time while my fancy coffee was being made. I’ve been fascinated with how to use carefully crafted messaging to show value and stand out in a crowded marketplace, so it seemed like a good addition to my libary.

Summary: In the authors’ own words:

“This book is about discovering your unique identity as an organization and being able to express that in a simple and compelling way. It is about revealing what it is about you that makes you uniquely remarkable at your very core. It is about making sure that every element of your organization – everything you do – is aligned with what makes it uniquely remarkable. It is about learning how to stay focused on the one magical, unchanging quality that makes you distinct. And it is about being able to tell others who you are and what you do in a simple and inspiring way.”

The authors divided their message into three parts:

  • Part One: “Why Should I Choose You?” explains why being able to answer the titular question is so important, and why the authors believe traditional business planning is broken
  • Part Two: No Pain, No Gain examines how to uncover your company’s universal value, why it’s important to express that value in seven words or less, how to tell your Core Story, and why your whole business should be architected around that universal value
  • Part Three, After the Pain Comes the Gain, explains how and why you should apply your Core Proposition to all aspects of your business

Throughout the book, we see how the journey unfolded for a number of the authors’ clients, in a wide range of industries. These examples demonstrate the versatility of the Blueprinting concepts, while also showing that change doesn’t come easily to most organizations.

You can also catch a very short summary in this video:

 

My Take: I was a bit worried that Why Should I Choose You? was gonna be a bit kitschy – one of those too-long books that should really just be an article.

However, I must admit that while the concepts themselves are straightforward, I didn’t find that the authors belaboured them. Rather, there was just enough explanation and supporting examples to really drive home the points, but without beating you into a state of senseless annoyance.

The result is a very digestible book/message that raises many important issues.

Why Should I Choose You? got me thinking quite a bit about how to apply its lessons to my own work, and the margins of my copy are filled with barely legible notes and ideas. I’ve begun to apply a few of them already, and look forward to doing so more in the future (I’m also considered going through the overall exercise just for my own Product Marketing team).

Conveniently enough, between reading Why Should I Choose You? and writing this report, I also read Good to Great, and now I see a tight relationship between the two.

Good to Great introduces the Hedgehog Concept as a guiding force for your business and a significant contributing factor towards greatness. Jim Collins’ website explains the Hedgehog Concept briefly as :

“A simple, crystalline concept that flows from deep understanding about the intersection of three circles: 1) what you are deeply passionate about, 2) what you can be the best in the world at, and 3) what best drives your economic or resource engine. Transformations from good to great come about by a series of good decisions made consistently with a Hedgehog Concept, supremely well executed, accumulating one upon another, over a long period of time.”

Now, check out what Why Should I Choose You? has to say about the authors’ Blueprinting concept:

“Blueprinting was created to discover and articulate the guidelines that steer an organization in the right direction. Unlike a traditional strategic plan, it is not meant to lock you into a specific set of steps that will take you stride by stride into the future. The purpose of the Blueprint is to create boundaries for the company. Anything it does within those boundaries is on strategy, while anything it contemplates outside of those boundaries should be discarded. This gives the company enough focus to push forward with a high degree of discipline and alignment, but also enough latitude that it can shift with a marketplace that is evolving at an ever-accelerating pace.”

To me, it seems like Good to Great‘s Hedgehog Concept is more on the ‘what’ end of the spectrum, and Blueprinting from Why Should I Choose You? is more on the ‘how’ end; that is, they complement each other, but Blueprinting explains how to go about achieving some aspects of the Hedgehog Concept.

To me, it seems like Good to Great‘s Hedgehog Concept is more on the ‘what’ end of the spectrum, and Blueprinting from Why Should I Choose You? is more on the ‘how’ end; that is, they complement each other, but Blueprinting explains how to go about achieving some aspects of the Hedgehog Concept.

Read This Book If: …you want to ask yourself and your business some tough questions, to get some revealing and powerful answers.

Notes and Quotes:

“It is not the strongest or most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.” – Charles Darwin

  • p1, quoting Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest or most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”
  • p2, on adaptive planning vs. strategic planning (very reminiscent of Obliquity): “The opposite of traditional strategic planning is adaptive planning. Rather than saying, ‘This is it,’ adaptive planning creates a planning framework for where the company is going and how it is going to get there. It provides a central guideline for the company that gives it direction and shapes decision making. From that central guideline comes specific next steps or an action plan. However, you can deviate from those specific next steps – while at the same time continuing to move in the right direction – as long as you stay true to the central guideline. The central guideline creates guardrails that keep your company pointed in a relevant direction but give you far more flexibility than a traditional strategic plan to bob and weave within those guardrails.
  • I’m sure this sentiment from p9, in a section on transformation, sounds familiar to many: “You want your organization to have a serious increase in growth, but you know that doing whatever you are doing now harder, faster, stronger, will provide only incremental growth. Tweaks won’t do the trick. To get the dramatic growth you want, you have to make some serious and fundamental changes to your company. But which changes are the right ones? And how should you make them?”
  • p28-29 introduce the concept of a company Blueprint and its three elements: Core Proposition, Business Architecture, and Core Story
  • p37…no doubt this step is a tough one for the vast majority of organizations: “In order to get deep enough into the psyche of the company to reveal its DNA, especially in seven words or less, you need to undergo the soul-searching, gut-wrenching, emotion-sapping process of stripping away those ‘truths’ about your organization that you hold to be self-evident, which are actually just illusion. Sorry to be so brutal about it, but it’s true.”

“In order to get deep enough into the psyche of the company to reveal its DNA, especially in seven words or less, you need to undergo the soul-searching, gut-wrenching, emotion-sapping process of stripping away those ‘truths’ about your organization that you hold to be self-evident, which are actually just illusion. Sorry to be so brutal about it, but it’s true.”

  • OK, so why do we have to answer the title question in seven words or less? p39 explains that, “It has to be just long enough to express a cogent thought…It has to be short enough to instill a discipline on the discovery process so that you don’t stop working at it until you truly have what makes you uniquely remarkable. Setting a standard that is exceptionally concise forces you to really think it through and not give up once you are ‘close enough’. This is a pass/fail process with nothing in between. There is no room for compromise.”
  • p40, on why seven words or less is important because it makes your answer easier to remember: “If who you are is expressed in seven words or less, making it easy to understand, it will also be easy for everyone inside and outside of your organization to remember. In the third session of a Blueprint we were doing, the CEO asked us when we were going to work on mission and vision. We explained to him why we don’t believe in them. When he got angry about this, we asked him to tell us his vision statement. He said he couldn’t remember it verbatim, so he would ask his assistant to print it out and bring it to the meeting. We told him that wouldn’t be necessary; paraphrasing it would be fine. He couldn’t do that, either. We looked around the room and asked if anyone could paraphrase the mission statement for us. No one could. So we turned back to the CEO and asked him why he was so intent on creating a mission statement when nobody in the organization knew what it was, let alone used it to guide how they did their work. When your Core Proposition is declared in seven words or less, it is easy to remember.”

“If who you are is expressed in seven words or less, making it easy to understand, it will also be easy for everyone inside and outside of your organization to remember.”

  • How do the authors help a company to create a Core Proposition? p41 explains that, “The colloquial way we describe the process is: we tear the company apart so that it is in pieces on the table, at some point in the conversation the Core Proposition pops out, we bulletproof it, and then we reassemble the company around the Core Proposition.”
  • The passage goes on to explain that, “When the Core Proposition pops out, one of three things happens: Everybody recognizes it in one of those aha moments; We recognize it and our clients don’t; or Nobody recognizes it in the moment.”
  • Pages 53-57 discuss emotional resonance and decision making vs. the rational arguments that most companies try to make: “When the Core Proposition speaks into the Core Logic and its Emotional Resonance, the customer immediately understands and feels the value. And because the customer feels the value as well as understanding it, the Core Proposition speaks into the limbic system of the customer’s brain, which is where the fear emotion lives and the decision-making happens. Contrast this approach with what this company used to do, and what most companies do: trying to persuade their prospects to buy from them by using rational arguments. As an installer of retail shelving, it use to say things like, ‘our customer service is better,’ ‘our people are nicer,’ ‘we have better communication with our clients’ and (worst of all) ‘our price is lower.’ These are all banalaties and genericisms that your client has heard a million times before from you and all of your competitors.”

“The purpose of your Core Proposition is to give the organization a total focus on the one thing that makes it uniquely remarkable. The reason why you have to dive so deep to identify your Core Proposition, as opposed to what you have to do to develop a tagline or a positioning statement, is because it has to endure for the next 15-20 years.”

  • Personally, my experience is that many folks (in engineering-driven companies, especially) doubt the importance of creating emotional impact…but they’re wrong. Whether you’re speaking to buyers or users, if you create emotional impact with a tremendous first impression, then that shapes the entire experience…they’ll forgive your mistakes and they’ll amplify your good things. They’ll find a reason to buy your product, and they’ll create a favourable business case to do so.
  • p62-64 explain what a Core Proposition is and what it isn’t. Here are some excerpts:
    • “The purpose of your Core Proposition is to give the organization a total focus on the one thing that makes it uniquely remarkable. The reason why you have to dive so deep to identify your Core Proposition, as opposed to what you have to do to develop a tagline or a positioning statement, is because it has to endure for the next 15-20 years.”
    • “When your Core Proposition is right, it keeps you on a very singular path while at the same time allowing you a wide range of ways to stay on that path.”
    • “The value of the Core Proposition is enduring, while the value of a positioning statement or a slogan will last only as long as it is relevant to current market conditions and customer needs or demands.”
    • “When you know your Core Proposition, you then develop a positioning statement from it and a slogan from your positioning statement. The positioning statement has to consider a number of things: it has to be true to the Core Proposition; it has to take into account current market conditions, including what your competitors are doing; and it has to factor in the needs and wants of customers at that point in time. The market conditions, the competitive situation, and the needs and wants of customers are all variables that will change over time. So both the positioning statement and the tagline you adopt will likely also change over time. What won’t change over time is your Core Proposition.”

“The value of the Core Proposition is enduring, while the value of a positioning statement or a slogan will last only as long as it is relevant to current market conditions and customer needs or demands.”

  • p65, on the relationship between the Core Proposition and its core logic, and creating emotional impact: “Say the Core Proposition → Understand the Core Logic → Feel the Emotional Impact”
  • p97, describing what your Core Story is and why it matters: “When we say that your Core Story guides everything you say, we mean everything. … Your Core Story is the explanation of your Core Proposition, from the logic of why this is valuable, to where it came from, to the methodology you employ to make it happen.
  • p98 explains that the Core Story is developed from six different angles, in this order:
    1. Who are you?
    2. What does (your Core Proposition) mean?
    3. Why are you qualified to do (what your Core Proposition says)?
    4. What is your methodology?
    5. What are the beliefs that lead you to (your Core Proposition)?
    6. What do I get as a result of (your Core Proposition)?

“It doesn’t matter if your Core Proposition means nothing to people outside of the field in which your company operates, because you will never do business with them. Your Core Proposition has to have meaning and resonance only inside your sphere of business.”

  • I think many companies would struggle with this point, p100: “It doesn’t matter if your Core Proposition means nothing to people outside of the field in which your company operates, because you will never do business with them. Your Core Proposition has to have meaning and resonance only inside your sphere of business.”
  • p113: “We know that most companies don’t know their unique methodology; when they pitch business, they either speak in vague generalities or describe features and benefits that are true of everyone in their category. In essence, they are pitching what their category does, not what they do.”

“We know that most companies don’t know their unique methodology; when they pitch business, they either speak in vague generalities or describe features and benefits that are true of everyone in their category. In essence, they are pitching what their category does, not what they do.”

  • p122, in a section on Core Beliefs: “As we mentioned, we believe every company starts for the same reason: because somebody says, ‘I know how to do this better.’ Encourage that person to talk about what underlies ‘I know a better way to do that’ by asking the following provocative questions: What do you really hate about how this business was done in the past? If you were a benevolent dictator and could decree how this kind of business should operate, what would you say?”
  • p123: “That is the beauty of Core Beliefs: when they are developed accurately, they are so effective in guiding specific, differentiated behaviours, both for individuals and for the organization as a whole.”
  • p129: “While it is true that your Core Proposition will resonate powerfully with all of your stakeholders, that doesn’t mean it resonates with each group in exactly the same way.”; the following pages included some helpful examples
  • In the bottom margin of p136, I scribbled, “What do your customers want to feel?” By answering this question, you can better craft the message and specific language to create a stronger emotional impact.
  • On page 139, I scrawled: “Rely on what the prospect already knows, to prove your pitch.” because we want to leverage and rely on pre-conceived and well-understood notions. I also wrote, “Appeal to the limbic system.” as a reminder of the importance of tapping into the emotional and decision-making parts of the brain.
  • p147 includes an example that shows how your Core Story can very readily be adapted into a script, whether for presentations or for corporate videos

“A company’s Core Proposition is one of the simplest and most powerful tools everybody in the organization can use to make sure their decisions and actions are aligned with the company’s goals.”

  • p155-156 talk about how the Core Proposition can be used as a strategic filter to determine if you’re spending time on the right things: “A company’s Core Proposition is one of the simplest and most powerful tools everybody in the organization can use to make sure their decisions and actions are aligned with the company’s goals. The Core Proposition acts like a strategic filter that guides every decision made and every action taken by every employee and stakeholder. Everybody in the organization needs to know how to make decisions that are consistent with who the company is and where it is going.”
  • p156: “Complacency is one of the most malignant afflictions to infect any company. The expressions ‘we always do it this way’ or ‘we never do it that way’ are recipes for stagnation.”

“Complacency is one of the most malignant afflictions to infect any company. The expressions ‘we always do it this way’ or ‘we never do it that way’ are recipes for stagnation.”

  • p172: scrawled a note about doing this exercise for my Product Marketing team
  • p186, quoting an exec feature in the book, and referring to a Malcolm Gladwell article in The New Yorker“What I learned from this is that you have to bring in outsiders to help you see beyond your own blind spots.”
  • p187: “While most companies want to be innovative, it isn’t always easy to do. Just declaring to your staff that you want them to be more innovative and creative isn’t enough. You need to create a formal infrastructure for innovation so that there is a disciplined process for making it happen and to propagate it throughout the organization.”
  • p189: “How you define yourself as a company affects how you view the marketplace for sales opportunities.”

“How you define yourself as a company affects how you view the marketplace for sales opportunities.”

  • Quoting extensively from p196, about how traditional sales pitches have it all backwards:

In order to understand how your Core Proposition and Core Story can make sales come faster and easier, it is important to consider how we listen when we are receiving a sales pitch. One of the reasons people obsess so much over the development of a sales pitch is because they want to control the message. They are trying to find the most resonant and relevant points about their product and present them in the most compelling way so that they feel like they have given the sales effort their best shot.

What they don’t realize is that the structure of their sales pitch cedes control of the message to the listeners, the people contemplating buying the product or service. The traditional sales pitch is a PowerPoint presentation laden with information about the product’s features and benefits. ‘Here’s feature number one and its associated benefits … Here’s feature number two and its associated benefits …’ And so on. And because they want to make the strongest possible argument in favour of a sale, they load the pitch document with as many features and benefits as possible. The belief is that not all features and benefits will resonate with every client, but as long as you have enough of them in there, the listeners will find something they like.

This is exactly the problem with barfing out a whole bunch of facts and figures about a product in a sales pitch: you leave it to the listener to figure out what’s in it for them. The listener has to process everything you present and then decide how what you are offering is relevant to them. These sales pitches don’t answer the question ‘What’s the big picture here for me if I buy this product or service?’ You’ve given the prospect all of the details, but you haven’t tied it up into a nice, neat and tidy, big-picture bow for them. So they have to figure that out for themselves.

We are not saying that features and benefits aren’t important; it’s just that they lose their power when the ‘What’s in it for me?’ answer isn’t there to lend them context.

  • p199 explains that once you’ve embedded your Core Proposition into the buyer’s mind, then the buyer relates all of the subsequent information (including features and benefits) back to the notion of that Core Proposition. Because the message of the Core Proposition is so powerful in the buyer’s mind, it enhances the value of all of the features and benefits that support it.

Because the message of the Core Proposition is so powerful in the buyer’s mind, it enhances the value of all of the features and benefits that support it.

  • p206, very reminiscent of Mind Gym: “The colloquial way we describe a Blueprint is that it creates a new future for an organization to live in. You have to describe your destination first, and then do everything in your power to get there.”
  • p207: “The process for implementing a Blueprint is unique for every organization. However, there are three common themes that were mentioned by every CEO we interviewed for this chapter. They are: Conviction. As a leader, or a leadership team, you must have total conviction in your Blueprint. Commitment. You must have a full commitment to everything that needs to be done for a successful implementation. Buy-in plan. You need to get buy-in at every level of the organization.”
  • p209, quoting Jack Welch in a section on Commitment: “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”
  • p209: “Conviction is how you feel towards something. Commitment is the level of effort you put into making it happen. You need conviction first and then commitment, because it is too easy to abandon commitment when there isn’t enough conviction.”
  • p210: scrawled another note about possible future applications
  • p211, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr: “A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a moulder of consensus.”
  • p211-212: “There are two levels of buy-in that are important to the success of the Blueprint, and they happen in the following order: 1. ‘I understand what this is about and I agree to work towards making it successful.’; 2. ‘I have fully embraced this new idea and it is now an organic part of my way of being in this organization.’ It is important to understand that this is a linear progression so that you as a leader or as part of a leadership team don’t have unrealistic expectations.”
  • p214 examines seizing an opportunity vs analysis/planning paralysis: “Often people are too careful when beginning any kind of initiative. Conventional wisdom dictates that you have all your ducks in a row before you do something. While we agree with this, you need to strike a balance between planning and speed.”

“Often people are too careful when beginning any kind of initiative. Conventional wisdom dictates that you have all your ducks in a row before you do something. While we agree with this, you need to strike a balance between planning and speed.”

  • Appendix 1, starting on p229, includes a useful Clarity Test, “to determine whether your growth is being slowed by confusion anywhere in your organization, starting at the top and working down.” I’ve considered adapting it just for my team. I feel like I’ve got a clear vision of where we’re going, how, and why, but often wonder if the vision’s at all clear to the folks on the team.
  • Appendix 2, which summarizes the authors’ experiences calling up businesses and asking for their answer to the title question, includes this revealing passage: “Instead of understanding the larger context of the buying experience, and appreciating the far more important role they play with their customers, all of these companies are pushing generic details to sell themselves. They make vague, generic promises of more comfortable seats or friendlier service or a better warranty – or lower prices, which is the most dangerous of all claims – when there is a much stronger platform from which they could be selling: what makes them uniquely remarkable. As a result, they are mired in a war of irrelevant details with their competitors, spending billions and billions of dollars on marketing and communications campaigns that, from the customer’s standpoint, miss the point.”
  • p245, in a section entitled, Everyone is In Sales: “One president answered the question, ‘Why should I choose you?’ with two words: ‘Our customers.’ This is a standard response, and as a sales support point, it is useful. To be able to point to name-brand customers as an indication of your credibility is powerful. However, it isn’t a primary point of differentiation. Your customers aren’t what make you uniquely remarkable; what you do for your customers that nobody else can do is what makes you uniquely remarkable.”

“To be able to point to name-brand customers as an indication of your credibility is powerful. However, it isn’t a primary point of differentiation. Your customers aren’t what make you uniquely remarkable; what you do for your customers that nobody else can do is what makes you uniquely remarkable.”

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Posted in Books, Marketing

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