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Posts Tagged ‘clarity therapy’

First, a quick explanation for this post – many of you are aware of another site where I am regularly posting (SteveWoodruff.com), and promoting a service I provide called Clarity Therapy.

It’s a practice I have loved offering over the last few years, and it may become important to you or someone you know. Can you give me a minute to tell you the story of how this Clarity Therapy thing has come about??

In my client-vendor “matchmaking” work here at Impactiviti, I noticed that many of my vendor/partners were struggling with putting forward a clear (and differentiating) offering and message. So I began to consult in order to help them “discover their fit” in the marketplace. Quite unintentionally, this began to spread into helping individuals who are in career transition, because the need is the same – figuring out your professional DNA; defining your “sweet spot” role or offering; telling an effective story; having an effective verbal business card to hand out.

Increasingly, I’m serving as an outside voice to help individuals and companies unearth their purpose and define their fit. Turns out that this is a massive need, especially in turbulent times.

So – a coaching practice was born, called Clarity Therapy. And it’s based on this one core reality:

You can’t read the label of the jar you’re in

I’m mentioning all this so that when you see various posts from that site, emphasizing message clarity, professional identity, branding and differentiation, etc. – you’ll know why.

A number of your vendor/partners and some of your colleagues-in-transition have already had very productive in-depth sessions. And, as you might guess, making network connections based on the professional direction uncovered is always a big part of what I do.

If you want to learn more about the service (half-day or full-day; pricing; expectations) – here’s a quick overview. And, I put out a fun little single-topic weekly newsletter called Clarity Blend – feel free to view a sample and subscribe here.

Thanks for listening. Since I am essentially working on two (inter-related but distinct) practices, I thought I’d provide an explanation so there’s no confusion. And, if you need help with professional direction – I’m your guy. :>}

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over capacityPeople sometimes ask me how I determine whether a particular vendor is a good fit for a specific client/project.

One of the factors I consider is capacity – does the vendor have the bandwidth and talent and structure to do this particular project well?

Vendors have a hard time saying “No” to clients even when they know they’re about to overload their capacity – it stems from a fear of both losing face, and losing business. But this is where high-risk-of-failure starts to enter into the equation.

I encourage vendor/partners, particularly those with whom I do a Clarity Therapy session, to target their business development efforts at their capacity sweet spot. For instance, one of my partners is a great choice for niche product launches – but would be overwhelmed by a large launch. So, it doesn’t make sense for them to target those opportunities. Some of my solo consultant partners stand a much better chance at succeeding with emerging biotechs than trying to compete on a very un-level playing field with bigger providers for the business of Top 5 Pharma companies.

Here are some capacity questions to consider:

1. How much of this work will need to be outsourced to others? Outsourcing isn’t always bad – in many cases where specific domains of expertise are needed, it’s unavoidable – but a complex and multi-faceted project may demand a supplier with a higher internal staffing level just to manage the many moving parts. On the other hand, for more limited projects, that may be unnecessary overhead.

2. Does this project require dedicated staff from the vendor (especially dedicated project management)? Some work can be juggled successfully without a more focused team, but some projects require a fixed amount of ongoing bandwidth. Find out in advance if that is the case.

3. Does this vendor have the capacity NOW for this project? Last year’s success with a similar project does not guarantee this year’s success if the vendor is already loaded up with other work.

4. Am I giving this vendor too much work? One client can overload a vendor such that their performance degrades – and, can put that vendor in a dangerous position of being too dependent on a single client for their financial health. I have seen this latter scenario play out time and again – no vendor should have a single client providing more than a third of their revenue.

5. Is this the right KIND of vendor for this project? A marketing agency may not be a great choice for a given training project, because their staffing and processes doesn’t match up to the requirements. A training agency doesn’t always have the bandwidth and expertise to develop software well. A consultant may do a fine job on a curriculum map, but may be the wrong choice for a courseware build-out. Both sides have to be realistic about where the sweet spot is – and isn’t.

What has been your experience (both good and bad) with vendor capacity?

photo credit: 96dpi via photopincc

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Every vendor/provider should seek to be outstanding in at least three ways:

  1. An outstanding track record of success and great service;
  2. An outstanding and focused set of clearly-understood offerings;
  3. An outstanding message that makes clear what you’re about.

Many companies are good at 1., but not so good at 2. and 3. For example, here is the generic and unfocused language used by one training company I recently found on the web:

generictrainingUmmm…what’s the differentiating message here? None. Nada. Generic, vague biz-speak (they even claim in the text above that they “don’t subscribe to the routine or generic” – ha!). It’s a bad case of JATS (Just Another Training Supplier) marketing.

If your description could fit just about any other company you’re competing with, then you don’t stand out. You need to discover your fit in the marketplace and express it with clear differentiation.

I’ve worked with many of my training partners to help them define their offerings, refine their message, and focus their marketing (see Clarity Therapy). If you need something better than generic branding, let’s talk. Commodity messaging won’t make you stand out, even if you are outstanding.

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Why aren’t companies bolder to differentiate themselves?

Once again, this morning, I came across a website for a digital (pharma/healthcare) agency. And, once again, there was the familiar list of bullet points, similar to this:

  • Digital Strategy
  • Web Analytics
  • Creative Services
  • Digital Sales Aids
  • Audio/Video Aids
  • eLearning
  • E-Mail Marketing
  • Microsites, Campaign and Brand Websites
  • HCP Social Media
  • Medical Animation
  • Mobile/iPad Development
  • Application Development
  • Web Development
  • Social Media
  • SEO/SEM

PenguinsWeDoThatIt could have been any of a number of such firms, because most of them claim to do – well, everything. Just like all the others.

Yes, I understand that agencies want to give the impression of being a one-stop shop so more marketing dollars can flow into their coffers. You’re afraid to miss out on some piece of work because the net is not wide enough. So you do bullet-point marketing. But at what price?

You’re now just like everyone else. “Will Work for Revenue.” There’s a biz-ugly word for that: Commodity.

In my Vendor Selection workshop, I show a web page with a very similar “we do it all” bullet point approach to training solutions. It’s disingenuous, really. Nobody does 10-12 disparate things well. And customers instinctively know it.

I’ll tell my pharma clients the dirty little secret: vendors may be ABLE to do 5-10 things, but typically, they’re going to do 1-2 things really well. That’s the differentiator. And, when doing clarity consulting with small companies and individuals, I say the same thing. Narrow your message down to your uniqueness; don’t broaden it to everyone else’s generalities.

It’s actually quite a liberating experience to move away from the broad message, where you’re competing with everyone; and instead, defining and promoting your unique offering.

It’s best not to lead with the 5-10 things. Clients cannot remember you for that – you will be dumped right into the commodity bin of their memory banks, soon to be deleted. Instead, lead with your tangible, demonstrable differentiator and build your message around that. Become a trusted supplier of something you excel at, and maybe the door will open later to some of the other things that you do.

“We’ll Do Whatever!” is not a message that sets you apart in the minds of your clients. Focus. Differentiate. De-commoditize.

Unlike everybody else!

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