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Unique or Out of touch?

March 27, 2017

Recently we attended a presentation when a school division representative  proudly claimed, “We are the only school division in Canada that offers [such-and-such] program.” Wow! For a fairly small, rural school division in Alberta to be the “only one in Canada” sounded quite extraordinary!

traditional dorm pictureAnd then I stopped to think for a minute: I would never send my child to [such-and-such] a program. Maybe its unique because the program style has gone the way of the type-writer, last seen heading for the junk yard.

Maybe its not a unique program at all. Maybe its a program that is out of touch with the realities of the 21st century?

I have heard organizations of many types make such bold claims. Maybe your organization offers a unique program? Your restaurant offers special menu options? Your educational institution offers a one-of-a-kind program? Your church offers a “nobody else has one like it” ministry?

And maybe your “special” is actually not that special at all. Its just old-fashioned and every one else has realized it… except you.

How can you tell if you are truly unique or actually out-of-touch?

Are there any clients?
Numbers may not tell the whole story, but they are often pretty good indicators. If you market your program to as many people as possible and you still only get 10-20 subscribers, it might be that your niche market is quite small. And maybe the number of people interested in your concept is fading rapidly. If the number of inquirers remains high but the number of buyers is down, this may point to another issue.

However, if the number of inquirers is consistently down, even after you’ve reached out to multiple markets, its possible you are marketing a product that is not on people’s want list. Almost every idea has a shelf-life and your product/service may be at the end. If your once popular offering is no longer that popular – and especially if others have ceased offering the program – to the point that you are the only supplier, it may be time to read the handwriting on the all that says O-V-E-R.

What is the age of the clients?
Unrelated to our first meeting, we also attended an presentation by a group of college students. They did a very nice job with their program… but it was only enjoyable if you were in the over 65 crowd. If a college student asked their grandparents where they should attend college, this school might receive a hearty recommendation.

However, if anyone under the age of 50 was asked, the report would say this college appeared to still be preparing students for life/work in the 1970’s. I would not recommend any young adult go there for their next step after high school, based on the students’ presentation.

If your clients are getting older and you are not attracting new and younger clients, your product/service appears to be on the way out. You either need to change your product, significantly update your product – if that is even possible – or close up shop kindly so that you are not the last provider. Unless of course, you want to proudly claim you are the only one offering the completely irrelevant service!

What is the mindset of the client?
It is partly an age issue, but even moreso is a mindset (or worldview) issue. Some programs were attractive 20 or 40 years ago because of certain social and/or political contexts. However, in an increasingly globalized world, the issues, concerns and opportunities are much different. Technology has made everything more available and accessible and people can be geographically spread out and yet talk face-to-face. If you don’t believe me, consider reading my post on Communicating and “new” Technology).

Technological changes have impacted social and relational changes. Because of the globalized world we live in today, a different mindset has changed the nature and even existence of many businesses. (Hello Kodak!)

Ask a group of millenials or GenerationZ to participate in your service/product. See how they respond and react to what you are offering. You might not like their feedback, but it probably will tell you if the product/service you are offering is truly unique – and worth offering – or out-of-touch. At the very least, you’ll have a better understanding of the younger generations mindset and the characteristics they value in a product or service.

Do you remember Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity?
Do the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

Maybe your program is amazingly unique! Or maybe its horrifyingly out-of-touch.
The truth might be painful to hear, but it will be much more painful to live.

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