Seven Weeks To A Better Business, Part Five

By Beacon Staff

This seven part series is about making real, substantive steps to improving your business in seven weeks. It doesn’t matter whether you are a butcher, baker or candlestick maker (or perhaps an attorney, insurance salesperson, or Realtor), these things will get you going in the right direction but they will not do a darned thing if you just read the Beacon, pitch it aside and don’t actually make changes.

So let’s get started with week five’s strategy: Challenge industry norms, they’re for those who accept normal results.

This (whatever this is) is what everyone else does, so you should do it too, right? Most likely… wrong.

Industry norms are often artificial barriers, rules or benchmarks that were placed there by those at the top of the food chain in that industry. It’s not your job to adhere to industry norms unless they are laws.

Look at Domino’s Pizza. 25 years ago, NO ONE delivered pizza to your house. Certainly, no one guaranteed they’d deliver hot pizza in 30 minutes or it was free. Take out and eat in pizza was the “industry norm”. Delivery either didn’t exist, or was quite rare. Delivery in a specific timeframe or it was free sure wasn’t the industry norm.

Domino’s Tom Monaghan didn’t pay attention to industry norms back then and neither should you today.

10 years ago, it was not an industry norm to use customer relationship management software. My software company and its customers didn’t care. We took that to a new high, tracking every customer contact (invoice, phone call, email, letter), doing targeted market-based message marketing based on detailed prior sales information, relationships and demographics, making customer care calls when no one asked for help, sending cards and emails regularly based on that information, giving buttons to our clients on the tradeshow floor – which made non-users on the floor demand to know more – and how to get a button.

“Tagging” your customers at trade shows wasn’t an industry norm, and even though everyone saw what we did, only 1 ever copied it.

Today, CRM software for a business is considered a must have. 10 years ago, people thought we were nuts to collect the information that we collected. Today, that information helps maintain a friendly, tight relationship with those same clients.

Industry norms say that a direct mail response of 1-2% is acceptable. So how come business owners who use non-standard strategies get responses of 15% or 20% and even higher in some cases?

They reinvent. Break and make new rules, and experience outstanding results.

It doesnt matter what business you are in. There are norms in your business. Norms that often dont make sense for anyone except those who make the rules. Whole businesses and industries have cropped up to certify you, anoint your marketing (or your work), and determine you are “ok to work in this business”, yet they often contribute little to the industry itself. Some are rumor, but are touted as laws. Find out for sure. Is it really illegal, or is it just what everyone does?

Years ago, famous personal growth coach, author and speaker Earl Nightingale said that if nothing else, if someone was new to a field, they could assure success simply by doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing. Why? Everyone else is just getting by, for the most part. Doing the opposite is what made for outstanding success for him and many of his clients.

So…which norm do you want? The norm that GM, Exxon, Microsoft or the National Speakers Association decide on, or the norm for your business?

What to do next: Examine the norms in your industry. Are they there for good reason (are they *really* laws, or just rumor, like “I cant use testimonials”), are they there to control the industry or worse yet, to level the playing field so the poorly run business can survive?

What rules or norms have you accepted from your industry that annoy your clients or just plain don’t make sense? Kick em out the door.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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