If you take away a company’s product what do you have left?
It’s a critical question one needs to answer, especially if you’re part of that company. When you can pin-point a distinguishing factor, you’ve arrive at your differentiation, you’re God-given uniqueness. That’s the value potential partners want. That’s the vision current partners crave. When you look beyond what you are supposed to produce to the intangibles, the answers will cause you to establish a lasting impact.
Let me pause here and mention knowing what you produce is vastly important. Without a solid answer to that question there will be little one can do to decipher the intangibles. To give an example about translating a company to a product, liken it to the classic logo game. Take a look at the image below and you’ll see a logo. Naturally, you figure out the product that comes with the logo. For example, a picture posted of Budweiser. They produce beer. A picture of the Nike swoosh. Shoes. A picture of Krispy Cream hot light–doughnuts.
Now, what about a church? What does that produce? People? Disciples? Congregation? Programs? How about a Christian University? What does that produce? Disciples? Leaders? Future employees? Products, and the services that surround that product, are what get a you in the game of starting a movement. You have to know what you’re supposed to produce. Great products and services are mandatory for lasting impact. However, they are only part of the equation. Many placees can produce what you produce, but what set’s you apart? That’s why I love what Will Mancini outlines in Church Unique. Discovering God’s unique design for a church’s ability to make disciples is paramount for it to be effective in its context and community.
In today’s world of complex social interaction and online comparison, by the time you’ve become shortlisted, your product will be the same as many others. Your claim about your product will not be unique. In fact, let’s hope your product is not unique when it comes to the church. But even when you market your features, functions, progress, feeds, and speeds, the “benefits” of your product are meaningless. The “benefits” are only beneficial if the beneficiary is God.
What sets your company apart and causes a movement to be born is not your product. It is the “stuff” that sits outside your product. Any good salesman knows this to be true and uses this to advance the company. So honestly in our churches and Christian Universities, this makes getting out in front by knowing and successfully doing what God is calling us to do difficult because it’s unique. It’s risky because if we’re being faithful to the transformation God is calling us to bring it’s never been done exactly like this before.
Resistance to this line of thinking becomes a huge problem. Because people who stimulate growth know their products–yes they may know a little about their brand, their programs, their instituion’s strengths and statistics. However, the eventual things most critical to the customer are not about the product they offer. Rather, it’s about the value created for the partner long before they decided to commit. It’s about the affection stirred in their heart for belonging. It’s about their transformational experience throughout the movement. It’s about the sense of purpose from difference in the lives of others. It’s about the larger story being told and lived out.
When you take away your product, it’s those intangibles that are left. Oddly, it’s those things that we can’t quite describe or put our finger on that are most important to the potential partner. Story, affection, transformation, and purpose transcend the product, and ultimately give the product its true value because it’s surpasses the natural elements. You can describe them, but they are difficult to quantify.
Any potential partner knows they can find some natural reason to choose from any number of other options. But really they are looking for help in experiencing something outside the realm of human naturalness. They are interested in seeing something outlast them. They are looking to be educated or taught in the eternal. They are looking for help in organizing meaningful mission. They are looking for help in justifying their choice–connecting that to the critical priorities in communicating to their heart. They are looking to produce results–to extract the value they expected in implementing the change and partnering with your unique vision–the solution to their problem.
What if you sat down right now and took a look at your most critical decisions? Take your product out of it. What was left over in the mind of the person who chose to step out and partner? To buy in?
If there’s nothing–probably the only strategy is to make what your offering significantly less than you competitors, make sure you are the lowest price. Make sure you cater to convenience and the comfort of your consumers. And still that may not be the winning strategy, even if it is possible.
If there’s bitterness-probably the vision you casted was far from the reality of the culture you created. What you can do is invest in and empower those who are living out the reality in your vision. Bitterness takes time to heal.
Taking away your product to figure out what’s left can be movement making. If you can’t answer that in terms relevant to your partners, then your ability to create a movement–and serve your potential partner is very limited. Your current partnerships will wane until they see a vision worth chasing after again. Product matters. If it was gone, what’s left?
Make sure you can answer that question.