Bill Taylor co-author of 'Mavericks at work' about business differentiation at Orange Business Live

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Bill's pitch is - according to what he said in his introduction - not about technology, it's about business and innovation. Here is my transcription of his speech taken on the fly and some of the major takeaways from his keynote speech:

Why standing out from competition is a must have

The only way for businesses to stand out on their markets nowadays is to stand for provocative ideas. Succesful companies nowadays try not to outdo their competitors, they try and be on a different level, changing the game plan.

Bill heard this story about this person running a business of "Mystery shoppers". The real question his mystery shoppers were asking was "why should I do business with you rather than your competitor". When asked, most bank representatives weren't able to answer that question. How can any of these banks be better than its rivals if that question cannot be answered?

That's the problem at so many companies nowadays, Bill says, one has to look at your field of business with a new set of eyes. What makes your organization special? are they more or less about the same thing or are they different? What do you promise and deliver that nobody else can? It's not good enough anymore to be 'pretty good' at anything. You have to be 'the most' everything (global, performing, "The middle of the road has become the road to nowhere!" Bill added.

How SouthWest Airlines made it in an industry which is dysfunctional?

The Airline business is probably the worst business according to Bill. Losses are humongous in the US. It has been in the red for ever. It has lost more money in its lifetime than it has ever made. Yet, there is 1 company which is still and has always made money: Southwest Airlines. How did they do that? THey didn't do because their fares are cheaper or their routes are better etc. they imagines what a second to none airline should be! "We are not in the ariline business, we are in the freedom business" according to them. They don't want to be different just for the sake of being different. "Southwest Airlines is not a company it's a cause!" It's something special in an industry which is essentially broken.

The kinds of companies winning in bad environment are focused on simplicity and orginality about the way that they wish to do things. Their mission statements are short and to the point. Southwest, Google ... all have very short and straightforward mission statements. What matters is what makes you more energized in the morning in a world that is ever increasingly depressing. It's great to think differently from anyone else, but what makes organizations win is tha they care more about customers, employees etc. "Your culture is your strategy, your strategy is your culture".

phone customer service is not expense, it's a marketing investment

Success is not just about technology and operations, it's about how you make the way you conduct yourself memorable to your customers. The questions is to cut thhrough the clutter of information by being different. Zappos, the famous Internet shoe website. Nobody believed in them 10 years ago, now his CEO has almost as many followers on twitter than Britney Spears! They were taken over by Amazon under the promise that they wouldn't change the spirit.Zappos is taking all the risk (you can ship your shoes back if you're not happy with them) but it's not what makes it work for them. They are always looking for ways to surprise their customers. They are very advanced, yet they can also be called on the phone. there are no scripts, no time limits. It's not considered a customer service expense, it's a marketing expense. Having one on one discussions with customers on the phone is just unbeatable. And it costs less than doing advertising.

Benchmarking is not a good way of differentiating

With all the competition in the world, if you customers feel that they can live without you, then they will. Your aim should be to use your passion and communicate that passion. The real challenge for an organization is to see things that other companies cannot. This is why Bill is not a fan of benchmarking. Bill ends up with Rob Mc Ewan's Gold Corp example. Rob saved his gold mine by resorting to crowd sourcing in order to find better and cheaper ways of drilling for new ore in his mine. His mine is now the most profitable mine in the world and Rob is one of the richest persons in Canada, all because he is a leader and didn't let nay-sayers deter him even if his ideas looked ludicrous.

The most important question for leaders is: "Am I learning as fast as my competitors"

Yann Gourvennec

I specialize in information systems, HighTech marketing and Web marketing. I am author and contributor to numerous books and the CEO of Visionary Marketing. As such, I contribute regularly on this blog for Orange Business Services account on cloud computing and cloud storage topics.