•If your business trades on value, promoting it as a one-stop shop has one big disadvantage
• The people who work on MPESA identify with it closely and celebrate its liberating impact on our lives
'Jack of all trades, master of none. A saying based on centuries of human experience. If Jack is good at cutting wood, would you honestly go to him to cut your clothes … or your hair?
The modern day supermarket is the closest we have to a one-stop shop. You go there because you’re likely to find most of the things you need for your weekly shop. It’s all in one place, which is convenient. There will be bargains, which are attractive. There will be novel items, which stimulate choice. If the supermarket is a brand, there will be the expectation of a certain level of quality. But still we say ‘ I wouldn’t buy their bread’ or ‘their homeware selection is poor’. So, as consumers, we choose to only give them part of our business.
Supermarkets trade on volume. They accept that you won’t give them 100% of your business. Their staff are focused on making your shop visit easier - clean aisles, clear signage, speedy checkout. In this environment, employees are always visible to managers and customers, so they need clear behavioural prompts - attentiveness, helpfulness, and cheerfulness.
But if your business trades on value, promoting it as a one-stop shop has one big disadvantage. Over time, everyone will forget what Jack is good at. In external marketing, that means you lose differentiation. In staff engagement, you lose clarity of purpose. Your customer experience becomes … mixed.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t diversify. If offering more services gives you more revenue opportunities, go for it. Make them relevant to existing customers, or use them to attract new ones. But mind how you talk about them. Safaricom, the huge telco, has also built pre-eminence in mobile money. Do they describe themselves as a horizontally integrated communications and financial services provider? They do not. They maintain differentiated positions for both parts of their business. The people who work on MPESA identify with it closely and celebrate its liberating impact on our lives. Their colleagues in telephony collaborate actively to create new communications realities.
Recently I worked with a successful business, approaching its 20-year anniversary that wished to re-examine its purpose. Many influences, internal and external, had suggested to them that they should become more of a one-stop shop. But, after five days of intense debate, their leaders re-committed to their original purpose and identified ways they could do it better.
They intend to diversify their product range, but understand what they are really good at. They’ve also realised that promoting themselves, as something more ‘inclusive’ will make it harder for staff to understand what they come to work to do.
Chris Harrison leads The Brand Inside