26/09/2012

By Louise Findlay-Wilson, Creator Of PrPro And Owner Of Energy PR

This week’s demise of JJB Sports was a classic example of a company that didn’t know what it was for. At a time when the country was immersed in a summer of sport, this sports retailer was losing money hand over fist…bonkers!

I know that it had lots of issues, not least a huge amount of debt which goes back as far as 2007, but the key problem was it just didn’t make itself special. As Matt Piner, lead consultant at retail research group Conlumino, said:

"JJB's main issue is that it never really found a proper point of difference"

It’s hard to understand how a business can get to this point. After all, getting clear about what makes you different can (and should) inform and shape absolutely everything you do.

Take Apple - it has a very clear idea about what makes it special. Apple is all about simplicity. This focus on simplicity has shaped everything that Apple does. For instance its technology is intuitive, it has few buttons on its products and its branding is really straightforward — iPhone, iPad, iTunes, iPod, iMac. You only have to look at the proliferation of meaningless phone or IT hardware brands and you see how seriously Apple has swum against the tide in its bid to be simple.

Such simplicity looks like a really logical step now that the company is so hugely successful — but when it was in financial straits and everyone was writing it off, it took nerve to adopt an approach so at odds with the sector’s most profitable companies.

You may argue that Apple as a company is a game changer, and you cannot be expected to emulate Steve Jobs. However there are many other smaller companies who have identified their ‘specialness’. I was speaking to one, a company which re-sells software and IT hardware, only last week. They have gone from £5m to £30m in a few years. This is the ultimate ‘me-too’ business. It doesn’t make anything, it simply sells other peoples’ stuff, but it has identified very clearly what makes it special — and it’s not price. This company is easy to deal with, its pricing is transparent, its website is incredibly user friendly, people can create their own quotations instantly.

It’s focusing on integrity.

If a reseller can find a USP, and genuinely do all it can to reinforce it and live up to it, we all can.

So while we chew over the demise of JJB Sports, let’s all resolve to know what our business is for…as without such clarity, in today’s white hot competitive environment, we won’t have a sporting chance.

Louise Findlay-Wilson has two businesses to help get your PR motoring:
If you are looking for a great PR agency visit www.EnergyPR.co.uk
For more PR training and tools so you can do your own PR visit www.prpro.co.uk