In the 1980s a TV show called MacGyver captured viewers’ imaginations; a secret agent with practical scientific knowledge and the ability to deal with complex problems got out of dangerous situations using common, everyday items he found lying around. In every episode, MacGyver was in a life or death situation fighting villains and had to throw together something to save the day, without using a gun. Even today, when someone comes up with a creative way to fix or solve a problem using common or unexpected items, it’s known as “MacGyvering”.
What does this have to do with your business?
More new businesses are starting up faster than any other time in history and your competition can come from down the street or the other side of the planet. With so many options available, now more than ever, you must differentiate yourself from your competition. Often business owners perceive that the marketplace is forcing them to compete on price alone if there’s nothing ‘unique’ about their business; this is where education-based marketing steps in to save the day.
The usual response is to spend more money on advertising to hammer your message into your consumers. But, if you’re limited on budget, resources, network and opportunities and you still need to get it done, what do you do? What would MacGyver do?
Brains beat budget. More important than having specialized knowledge is having the right mindset to deal with difficult situations and come up with creative solutions to complex problems.
1. Understand the Most Important Person in Your Business
Because MacGyver deeply understood the underlying principles behind what he was doing, he was able to use common items in extraordinary ways. Just like you need to understand your ideal client to connect with them on a deeper level. The purpose of your business should be to understand your client, solve their problems and provide so much value that you become their only logical option.
Businesses lose clients every day because they forget clients want to connect with another person, not a company. One of the best ways to do this is by developing an Ideal Client Profile.
As yourself these questions:
- What’s your client’s biggest fear or frustration?
- What’s your client embarrassed to admit, even to themselves?
- What words do they use when talking about their fear and frustration?
- What does the conversation going on in their head sound like?
- How does your perfect client use your product or service?
Find all the things your ideal clients have in common and then speak to those commonalities, because something magical happens when a person feels understood.
2. Embrace Systems Thinking
Whether you’re selling a product or a service, what you’re really selling is an experience. An experience moves in stages from discovery, purchasing, support assistance, eventual replacement and everything in between. Companies usually handle each stage as separate processes done by a different department, which can result in a terrible experience.
If you consider the different parts of your business as part of a system designed to put a prospect in one end and produce a loyal, satisfied client at the other end, what would you do differently? What processes would you put in place? What parts can be removed to streamline the process?
This is known as Systems Thinking. Systems Thinking views a system as a whole with properties, behaviors and their effects which can’t be understood by looking at the components alone and may only show up when interacting with other components in the system.
Here’s how to apply systems thinking to your business.
- Map out your system process
- What problem are you solving?
- Is it a problem people want solved and are willing to pay for?
- What is your exit strategy?
- How will the solution meet those strategic goals or long-term vision?
- What unintended consequences might it have?
This will determine what plans, policies and procedures you set up in your company. There are many companies that think of their business as a whole system and offer excellent services with great experience supported by smooth, efficient operations in order to deliver upon their promises; companies like Apple, Amazon, eBay, FedEx, Kayak, UPS, Nordstrom, Ikea, Virgin, Trader Joe’s, and Zappos, to name a few.
3. Learn From Outside Your Industry
Because MacGyver understood the underlying principles of technology and science across many disciplines, he knew how to combine common, unrelated objects to create exactly what he needed to get out of a nasty situation.
You can do the same thing for your business by not only staying current on what is happening inside your industry, but on others outside of your space as well. You will learn about strategies and tactics that might be as common as dirt in one industry, but can be like a nuclear explosion when applied in another.
When Hotmail first launched, they had a problem – how to grow their number of users. Their original idea was to use TV and billboard ads to promote their new web email service. One of their investors, Tim Draper, recalled stories about Tupperware parties from the 1950s, where housewives would get together and show off the latest Tupperware products. Tim suggested each Hotmail email sent should have at the bottom, “P.S. Get your free email at Hotmail.com“.
Within hours of doing this, their user-base shot up. They started getting 3,000 users a day. Within 6 months they got 1 million users, and 5 weeks later they hit 2 million users. When they sold to Microsoft one and a half years after first launching, they had 12 million users.
They took a successful concept from a totally unrelated industry and applied it to their problem.
CLICK HERE for more examples of borrowed ideas from unrelated industries.
MacGyver wasn’t daunted by any situation, no matter how much the odds were stacked against him. He rationally thought through each situation and pieced together a solution bit by bit. He formulated a plan and worked with whatever he had on hand.
In your business many situations might seem impossible – you can’t get your team to execute. No one is contributing to the company blog. The executives won’t fund your marketing campaign. You might be really frustrated, but let’s think about it. Even if you got approval and the money you need, it doesn’t mean you’ll succeed. You may waste a lot of money during implementation. Maybe you’ve targeted the wrong market or you haven’t thought all the logistics through; it can be very risky. So instead, do small tests and experiment.
CLICK HERE to get more examples of how to apply the ‘Test’ principle.
Here are the takeaways you can apply to your business:
- Connect deeply with the people
- Apply Systems Thinking, a creative—MacGyver like—approach to business problems.
- Step outside of your industry and see what others are doing and how you might implement it in your business to shake up the industry.
- Test small and fail fast so you can focus on workable ideas and scale up.