How do you differentiate yourself in a crowded market? It’s tough out there as companies are getting sucked in to commoditised pricing and delivery discussions.

To fine tune your value messaging, you must first understand HOW your company adds value to it’s customers. This week I took some time to think about my favourite book on world book day. I chose ‘The discipline of market leaders’ by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema. I first read this in the late 1990’s , and the core messages remain true to this day.


What are the disciplines?

Essentially the authors argue that you must select a SINGLE DISCIPLINE as your company value proposition from the three possible options.

Product Leadership

Like Tesla these companies deliver value through leading edge research and launching new innovation to early adopters. Prices are higher and volumes lower to cover the huge investment in R&D to stay ahead of the pack.

Operational Excellence

Think Amazon here. Easy to transact and do business with, focused on fast follower strategy and often seen in high volume situations. These businesses often use technology to improve efficiency and lower operating costs that can be passed on to customers. This approach allows them to operate at scale.

Customer Intimacy

A lot of B2B solutions businesses, including us here at Outside In. Working with selected and fewer customers but holding deeper relationships. Customer intimate businesses are typically customer focused problem solvers who build solutions to specific customer challenges.

Once selected, build your company around this choice and only then do you optimise performance in the other two disciplines without compromising your key focus.


How do the disciplines impact sales?

Your business operating model has a profound impact on how you approach sales, marketing and business development.

Customer Intimacy sellers

For a customer intimate business, the sales approach is very consultative. Customer success is a key focus and sales teams are there to help customers to realise value in their performance. Your messaging focuses on value not price/delivery, sales processes are strong on discovery and value building and solutions will be customer specific.

For example let me share what we try and focus on at Outside In. We focus on customer intimacy, deeply understanding our customers business and using our expertise, solutions and assessments to deliver custom solutions to each customer’s specific situation. We try to be as efficient as possible, but we don’t sell products from a catalogue and deliver them automatically without humans adding some value into the process.

Our solutions are built on a set of core building blocks, and the way they are delivered is subtly different for each customer. Unlike some of our competitors who are one-sized solutions we have built ours to be tailored. We are not trying to be product leaders and don’t operate at the bleeding edge of technology. Our solutions are perfect for those who want to adopt new methods and solutions but don’t want to pay a premium to cover the latest R&D.

Operational Excellence selling

In contrast, operationally excellent businesses are typically more marketing than sales led. Online e-commerce stores with AI overlays will guide customers to easily transact, followed by automated and fast supply chains to ship the product.

Product Leadership sales

Product leaders sell via marketing and sales. They will focus messaging on the latest features, widgets and technology. They will appeal to the emotions of early adopters and engage with opinion former’s to extol the virtues of this new tech. The sales approach is focused on identifying the early adopters and them painting a vision of how this new solution will be exciting.


Differentiate by understanding competitor positioning.

To stand out in the sea of sameness you must first identify your competition and their approach. Focus your messaging on areas of strength for your approach relative to a competitor’s approach. To win your customer needs to value your approach more than the alternatives so help them to see the value in this.

For example, Amazon’s focus on operational excellence does not allow it to easily deliver customer intimacy. If this is your core value proposition, focus on how your solutions are custom tailored to each customer’s needs, based on deeper understanding of their needs and sold in a way that is more consultative.

So what approach are you taking? Is this based on your company value proposition? Do you have a clear understanding of your value proposition? If not, give me a shout and we’d love top help you to improve your value messaging, sales process and the capability of your sales team to deliver.