Thanks to my trusted friend, Wikipedia, I now know that the term “No Man’s Land” dates back to 1320, where the expression was used to describe a territory over which there was a legal disagreement. Later it was assigned as the place of execution on a small plot of land outside the north wall of London. For me, I like the second definition better because if you find yourself living in No Man’s Land in the mattress industry, chances are your business will ultimately die.
Strong words, eh? Think about it for a minute and maybe you will agree. Was Montgomery Ward a discounter? Were they a department store? They weren’t really either toward the end. Their merchandising was on the low to middle side of the quality scale but they didn’t tout an “everyday low price” strategy or speak of themselves as the place to save big money. They even considered moving their cash registers to the front of the store well before Walmart got going in that direction but decided that was not who they were. (I know this because my father worked there years ago and was the one pushing the change. Good thinking, Dad.) One of the reasons for their ultimate demise was the fact that they didn’t have an identity anymore.
If you don’t know who you are, how are your customers supposed to know what to think about you? Are you the innovation company? Are you the low-end, product-for-a-price company? Are you the luxury brand? I don’t really care who you are, but be SOMEBODY! One of the things I love about Corsicana Bedding as a product and brand is that they know exactly what they are and who their customer is. Their goal is to drive hard value to the consumer as a result of being operationally efficient; it says so right there on the website. And they do it as well as anyone.
Here are a few reasons to make sure that you are not operating in No Man’s Land:
- When you don’t clearly define who you are that typically means you are trying to be everything to everybody. If that is the case then you are going to be spread to thin and your efforts will not be concentrated enough in one area to make impact. Not only that but if you try to be great at everything it usually means you are not good an anything.
- If there are some blurred lines (insert Robin Thicke soundtrack here), then you are going to waste a lot of time trying to run your business. Your meetings will last longer, and the internal debates will RAGE, on everything from merchandising decisions to how you market the business. Not knowing who you are will paralyze and frustrate you.
- If people see you in a soft-focus kind of way, they are going to miss out on the details that make you great. If you aren’t strong in how you define yourself, don’t worry, your customer is going to do it for you and they will likely tag you with something like “irrelevant.” Not clearly standing for something means that you stand for nothing, which I guess means that you do actually stand for something, which is nothing. Never mind, you know what I mean.
My challenge to you is to ask five people today what your company stands for. If all five come back with the same answer, you are excused from class with an A+. If not, you might want to hold a strategy meeting to decide what you are and where you are going. Remember that you are on a path that will take you to a destination. Is that destination going to be success or will it lead to obscurity? That one is up to you.