If customers couldn’t use your company’s products or services, what’s the next best thing they could do? Now, ask yourself two further questions:

  1. How much better are you than the next best thing?
  2. How different are you to the next best thing?

Companies thrive when they are clearly better and clearly different to their competitors, and they struggle when they are inferior and similar to the next best thing. These bland, struggling companies are forced into a life of price-based competition and a slow, inevitable decline.

For example, the Focus DIY chain went into administration today. The BBC reports that the company was hit by the weak housing market and low consumer confidence.

Perhaps, but that’s not why it failed.

The company failed because it had no compelling point of difference and no compelling point of superiority. Focus DIY’s next best things – Wickes, Homebase and B&Q – were simply better on virtually every front.

So, what’s the distance between you and the next best thing? And, if your company is indistinguishable or worse than the next best thing, what do you need to do about it?

© Stuart Cross 2011. All rights reserved.