Pigs and Popeye as Decision Points

We’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase ‘putting lipstick on a pig’. It’s still a pig. Popeye used to proclaim, ‘I yam what I yam and that’s all that I yam.’ And in Canada, the practice of ‘spocking’ has emerged with the passing of Leonard Nimoy (Spocking is the practice of drawing Vulcan ears and eyebrows on the image of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada’s seventh Prime Minister.

What do these three things have in common? They are all examples of knowing who you are and who you are not. Popeye IS Popeye. A pig can wear lipstick, but it is still a pig. And Sir Wilfrid Laurier is not Spock. Wal-Mart is not Nordstrom’s (one more to highlight the point).

So what, you say? Well, it’s pretty striking to consider that if you try to be all things to all people you will get nowhere. All great companies excel at one of these three things:

  • Operational Excellence
  • Product Leadership
  • Customer Intimacy

(Credit to Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema, authors of ‘The Discipline of Market Leaders’)

This is WHY Wal-Mart is not Nordstrom’s. Wal-Mart is excellent at operations and distribution and Nordstrom is excellent at customer intimacy. Apple is excellent at innovation and product development. All three of these companies know where they lead and do not try to be anything else.

Having a solid identity is incredibly valuable in this world where the internet has removed all barriers to finding whatever you want.  If you search for ‘satellite phones’ you will find a couple dozen companies ALL selling the exact same thing – all satellite phones are made in the same factory, go through the same distribution channels and end up on the provider’s shelves. Product innovation is out (for basic phones) as a place to base your decision. So which do you want the equivalent of operational excellence, aka lowest price, or Customer intimacy, aka, outstanding support? You cannot have both, just as something cannot be ‘new and improved’ – that slogan has bothered me for years. It is either new, never been here before, or improved, been here before but now better.

Lowest price means your support – if there is any – will suffer. We have a government client that calls us for support due to our knowledge base, and responsiveness.  They lament the fact that ‘DC’ made the buying decision based on the lowest price. The ‘support’ offered is a web page where they send an anonymous message to the company and they rarely respond, certainly not at the time a response is needed – now that’s helpful…..

On the other hand one of our clients was duly impressed that our staff answered personal cell phone calls on a Saturday and came in to the office to prep phones that had to go out that day.

These are two starkly different business models and one will undoubtedly resonate with a variety of SatCom users out there. Here’s the question: Which one is the best fit for you and can you convince your contracting officers, buyers or financial folks that paying the incrementally higher price is well worth the investment?   That debate rages on.

Thanks for reading