Posted by: kevinliebl | June 2, 2009

Using Social Networking to enhance and leverage your “Value Discipline”

The Value Disciplines

The Value Disciplines

In an era where it feels like new technologies upset traditional business processes daily, it is always good to align leading-edge technologies with fundamental business processes.  One of my favorite business concepts was first discussed in the book “The Discipline of Market Leaders” by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema.  I have used this concept in numerous meetings, workshops and business strategy sessions.  The book explains that no company can succeed by trying to be all things to all people.  Companies need to identify their unique “value discipline” in a market, and then leverage their position.  The authors explain that there are three high-level value disciplines: Operational Excellence, Product Leadership, and Customer Intimacy.  Successful companies tend to focus on one, rather than all three areas.  This is not to say that they can ignore the other categories, but they should not attempt to be a market leader in all three or they will dilute their effort and fail.

Value Discipline
Example Companies
Operational Excellence Providing the lowest cost of goods and services, while minimizing problems for the customer Wall-Mart, McDonalds
Product Leadership Providing the best possible products from the perspective of the features and benefits Intel, Nike
Customer Intimacy Understanding your customers in detail and then treating them with superior customer support Apple, Nordstrom

This fundamental business concept is applicable to almost all businesses, regardless of size, product/service offering or geographic location.  This is a very powerful discussion to have within your company.  Where are you focusing your efforts today?  Is this the right decision?  Are you investing your resources appropriately?

Today however, it is worth taking this discussion to the next level.  Once you have defined your value discipline strategy, it is worth looking at how social networks can help create, promote and leverage this effort.

For companies who focus on Operational Excellence, there is a unique opportunity to use social networks to listen to customers and understand their unique market requirements.  Then use this information to create low-cost, high-value products and services, and in turn, promote them over the same social networks.  Companies are also using social networks to enhance their customer service processes.

In the instance of Product Leadership, companies can use social networks to get closer to their customers and gain a unique understanding of their specific requirements.  One of the biggest challenges in gaining product leadership is not the manufacturing process, but rather truly understanding the features that are important to their target market.  Social networks provide a powerful methodology to get “inside the head” of your customer.  Listen to their conversations about your products.  Test market features with them and even get them involved in the design process.

The final category, Customer Intimacy is the most intuitive.  Social networks, by their nature enable two-way conversations with customers in a way that was previously impractical.  Today, we can segment the market in unique ways and communicate with them in real-time.  Companies are able to create a level of “intimacy” by creating communities of common interest.

Action Item: First, make sure you understand your value discipline and create an integration point with your marketing strategy.  Next, leverage social networks to fine-tune and promote your value discipline.  Doing this correctly will give you a significant advantage over your competition.


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  1. Kevin –

    I like and agree with your perspective surrounding “value discipline” – you certainly can’t be all things to all people.

    Personally, 80% of my focus is based on my company’s core competencies, while continually developing any weaknesses. Although we can’t be the best at everything, it’s no reason to accept current positions.

    Additionally, if done correctly, the power of Social Networking is amazing. You message must be consistent across platforms though. You can’t have a professional LinkedIn and Facebook page with an Eminem MySpace. It all takes some time and effort but the pay offs can be tremendous.


    • Peter,

      You touch on an issue may people wrestle with. How to separate the “social” tools from the “business” tools. While it is possible to have a company or brand focused Twitter feed. It is more difficult to hide your personal brand on LinkedIn. It is important to develop your personal brand and when you have a MySpace, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter feed all under your own name, that can be difficult. The most common answer is to focus Twitter and LinkedIn on business and let Myspace and Facebook be social. If you want to connect with you college friends on MySpace and Facebook, that’s fine, but make sure you tighten up the security so that only your “friends” can see the content. This is fairly straightforward.

      Just remember, anything that is posted to the internet is permanent and will never go away.

      Good luck,


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