Had an interesting conversation about positioning last week.

I was speaking to a council member of a medium-sized city. They’re considering a change to the holiday schedule as they complete a realignment of the city’s workforce. The question was this: which holidays should we celebrate with a day off?

To answer, they looked at their surrounding cities. All of them celebrate Veterans Day instead of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Easy decision!

But one other council member, who is normally quiet, wrote a passionate defense for the opposite perspective. So my friend reconsidered, and asked for my advice.

In general, it’s good to be equivalent to your peer set. You want to match on most things your customers are considering. But for a few things that your audience thinks are crucially important,you need to be different.

Who is your target audience? It should be the people who appreciate what you do well, don’t mind what you’re not good at, and are underserved by the competition. In short, they’re the people who love what you do differently. So, for my friend, if her city wants to attract those who most value diversity, they should make the decision that the city they want to become would make.

Benchmarking works to get into the consideration set, but it won’t help us stand apart. The best we can hope for through benchmarking is mediocre.

This holds true for ourselves too. We need to match our peers in most areas. But the decisions that defy the benchmarks are the important ones. Those are the crucial tradeoffs that define us.

Something I am considering in my end of year reflection: how am I choosing to be different?

Stay encouraged, and have a great day!

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