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How to Stand Out in a Hypercompetitive Marketplace

Show business is a multi-billion dollar (and thriving) industry. What can we learn from show business that we can apply to our own business?

Shep Hyken speaks with Scott McKain who states that all of us, no matter what our business is, are in show business. And here’s why . . .


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The purpose of entertainment is to create the desired emotional response from the audience. As business people, we need to determine as a first step how we want our audience (our customers) to feel as a result of our production (whatever product or service we provide).

Unfortunately, and the reason Scott wrote the book All Business is Show Business, is that businesses don’t think about how they make their customers feel. Yet, we must make it part of the process. How do we, as a business, think about the compelling experiences we are creating for our customers?

In business, this is usually the last step we take. We create our storefronts or design our websites, and then, after everything else has been put in place, we ask, “Okay, how do we improve the experience for our customer?” We simply do not think about defining the customer experience and customer service as we should – or at least at the right time.

With motion pictures, the real profitability is in the sequel, the repeat business. Yet how are we as business people preparing for our repeat business? Additional profitability for motion pictures comes from licensing products and spinoffs. Similarly, how can we extend and expand our products and services?

Another subject that was discussed was one of Scott’s other books, Create Distinction: What to Do When ”Great” Isn’t Good Enough to Grow Your Business. Scott wanted to find out why some organizations were standing out in the marketplace and others weren’t? Looking at the book Good to Great by Jim Collins, he noticed that most companies represented in the book as “great” had either gone bankrupt or had fallen from their lofty perches. He wanted to understand why, and determined that they had the ability to be distinctive.

Part of what made companies distinctive was the level of service they were delivering, but Scott determined it was much more than that. Through his research, he was able to determine the four cornerstones of distinction:

  1. Clarity – This process involves becoming totally precise and what you are, and being just as precise about what you are not. If we try to be everything to everybody, we end up being very generic and very bland.
  2. Creative – It is easy for an organization like Amazon to be creative because they are so clear on who and what they are. Steve Jobs could be so creative with the iPhone because he was so clear on what kind of products Apple builds. Creativity must be grounded in clarity.
  3. Communication – We need to communicate the narrative of what really matters. We know the narrative of distinctive businesses like Southwest Airlines, yet we tend to in our own businesses and our own careers to run away from our uniqueness. Your story can define your culture.
  4. Customer Experience Focus – What will the customer feel like when they do business with us? How do we refine that experience? How do we make it stand out?

Business is hyper-competitive, and one way to separate your business from the competition is to focus on these four cornerstones and creating distinction.

Scott McKain is an internationally known authority who helps organizations create distinction in every phase of business. He is the author of three business bestsellers. This year, Scott will be releasing an updated version of his book, All Business is Still Show Business.

 What questions will this episode answer?

  1. What is the purpose of business?
  2. Why is all business (still) like show business?
  3. Why are we not successful in determining and defining the customer experience?
  4. Why should we not try to be all things to all people?
  5. How can you stand out and be distinctive among your competition?

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