Your business is somewhere between Points A and C on the “Success Continuum” shown below. Point A is the place at which a business fails, and Point B is the position of status quo-where net income is sufficient to cover expenses with some amount left over for profits. Point C is where your business is thriving and growing profitably at a fast pace.
A B C
Bankruptcy Business as usual As good as it can be
Most publishers spend their time somewhere between Points A and B, actively working to move closer to B or further from A. As some publishers get close to Point B, they become satisfied with the status quo, habitually conducting business as usual. In this case, Point B becomes the end result in their quest to maintain their publishing business. However, you should spend your time somewhere between Points B and C, actively working to move closer to C or further from B. With this perspective, Point B is the starting line of your actions to develop your company’s potential.The Journey to Point C
A successful journey to Point C begins by writing a business plan. It serves as your roadmap, detailing your course from where you are to where you want to go. However, writing your plan is a waste of time if it’s simply filed away for months and then dusted off to serve as the basis for next year’s plan. A business plan should be used, not simply created, making you effective at implementing your marketing strategy. It’s not an end result but the starting block for your race to Point C.Marketing effectiveness means performing necessary activities better than rivals perform them, while building a separate identity for your business. You outperform rivals only to the extent you establish a customer-oriented difference that you can preserve. In so doing, you deliver greater value to your customers, create comparable value at lower cost, or both. The arithmetic of superior profitability then follows: delivering greater value allows you to charge higher average unit prices while greater efficiency results in lower average unit costs.Strategic Positioning
The essence of strategic positioning is in action, i.e., performing unique activities or performing similar tasks in different ways. This behavior emerges from three distinct theories that are not mutually exclusive and often overlap. The first is value-based positioning which is founded on the choice of product or service rather than on customer segments. Firms publishing only math textbooks for colleges would illustrate this position as they demonstrate their excellence in one sub-segment of the academic market.The second option is need-based positioning which arises when you address the needs of a complete segment. A firm practicing this would serve most or all the requirements of a particular group of customers. For example, a firm publishing a complete line of textbooks for vocational schools meets these criteria.The third theory of creating a brand image is access-based, i.e., segmenting customers who may be categorized in different ways. Access is a function of your customers’ geography or size, as demonstrated by a publisher of titles about bicycling trails in New England. Serving a small rather than a large geographic segment may be the best way to configure its marketing, order processing, and after-sale service.What’s Next?
Choosing one of these positioning concepts is only the first step in establishing your brand identity. Addressing a singular difference of value, need, or access is not sufficient to set you apart from your competitors. There could be several publishers providing textbooks to vocational schools or several publishers with a line of titles about New England’s bike trails.The second step is to make your titles different from and better than your competitors’ titles, from your customers’ perspectives. If you have the only line of spiral-bound textbooks that lay flat on students’ desks, and your customers want that feature, than you have the basis for need-based positioning. If your title about New England’s bike trails is the only one available in every bike shop northeast of Philadelphia, then you have a distinct basis for access-based positioning.Conclusion
Competitive strategy is not only about carving out a niche. It’s the creation of a unique and valuable position involving a set of activities that are different from your competitors and meet the needs of your market. A position emerging from any of the three sources-or any combination of them-requires a tailored set of activities on the supply side that make a difference to the customers on the demand side of the marketing equation.
Brian Jud is an author, publishing consultant, and host of the book-marketing seminar to be held in Newark, New Jersey, on October 14 and 15. You can reach Jud at 800/562-4357, firstname.lastname@example.org, or at http://www.strongbooks.com.