In a recent post on Seth Godin’s Blog, he suggests that successful organizations spend a lot of time saying, “that’s not what we do”. He believes it’s a requirement, because if you do everything, in every way, you’re sunk, and I agree.
He goes on to say that these companies achieved their success by standing for something, by approaching markets and situations in a certain way. Sure, Nike could make money in the short run by licensing their name to a line of wines and spirits, but that’s not what they do.
“That’s not what we do,” is the backbone of strategy, it determines who you are and where you’re going.
Too many agencies put themselves in a position where they chase every new business opportunity that comes along, even when they know that they do not have the required capabilities to be successful. Just because you claim to be a full service, 360 Degree agency, does not make your agency competent, let alone an expert in every discipline.
Ideally, you should ask yourselves if you really have the experience and expertise to address the RFP without reverting to smoke and mirrors? Even more importantly, ask yourselves if you are really able to deliver the quality of work and results required in order to help the client be successful. If the answer is no, then take a pass and wait for something more suitable.
The Why imperative:
On the other hand, never use “that’s not what we do” as an excuse not to adapt to change when opportunities come along. In this instance, people in the organization should not forget to ask: “Why?” If the only reason you don’t do something is because you never did, that’s not a good reason. If the environment has changed dramatically and you are feeling pain because of it, this is a great reason to question yourself, to ask why.
Seth goes on to say that the why factor is really clear online. Simon and Schuster or the Encyclopedia Britannica could have become Google (organizing the world’s information) but they didn’t build a search engine because that’s not what they do. Struggling newspapers could have become thriving networks of long tail content, but they chose not to, because that’s not what they do.
Maybe Cliff Freeman & Partners could have averted their recent demise if only they had embraced the “Why Imperative”. They missed the opportunity to leverage their rich creative history and reputation while morphing themselves into a leading edge person2person agency.