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Defining Core Competencies —Sherburne

August 2007
PART OF effectively marketing your firm is a clear understanding of what your business is about—what are your market differentiators, why do customers buy from you rather than someone else, and what would attract new customers to you rather than the guy down the street or the Internet storefront at their fingertips?

In his keynote address at EFI Connect 2007, Apple Fellow Guy Kawasaki’s advice, among other things, was to define your innovation or differentiation with a two- to three-word mantra, like Nike’s Authentic Athletic Performance, FedEx’s Peace of Mind, eBay’s Democratize Commerce. This is a good approach that makes it easy for your employees to articulate your value at a top level, or your customers to remember you and identify you with key concepts. But, obviously, developing a marketing strategy needs to go much deeper than that.

One approach is to just say, “I am a printer, and I print anything that comes in the door.” Many businesses do that, and can still make a decent living that way. But it is getting harder and harder to do so.

June’s announcement by Vista-Print that the online print provider would now be offering creative and mailing services, following a similar announcement from FedEx Kinko’s earlier this year, goes a long way (in a society that is so convenience driven) in explaining why it’s getting harder for printers to simply “print what comes through the door.”

Differentiated Offerings

Two firms I have recently spoken with have taken a different approach, with excellent results. They have spent time defining their core competencies and building a differentiated offering based on those competencies. And the results are interesting.

First, after 118 years in business, Fetter Printing announced in December 2006 that it had completely overhauled its management structure, as well as its vision for the future, walking away from some of its traditional lines of business in order to focus on others in which it can be a market leader.

This was a bold and unusual move and prompted me to contact Fetter President and COO Terry Gill to find out more. Gill told me that he and his team came to the realization that with finite resources, they couldn’t create a powerful enough value proposition that would allow them to dominate a category. They decided that they had to simplify their business and focus all of their resources on a limited set of vertical markets.
 

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