Execution is everything. Or is it?

It was a cold Sunday evening in October, and I found myself staring at the beautiful lights of the New York City skyline – I was looking for answers. An abrupt “keep moving, sir” took me out of my trance as the Citi Field security team ushered Mets fans out of the stadium for the final time in 2022.

This was supposed to be the beginning of an incredible playoff run, and suddenly it’s over. The entire season came down to three games with no room for error. I just spent my entire weekend – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – traveling 2+ hours each day and enduring an emotional roller coaster as the two teams battled for survival. Heading into Sunday’s game tied 1-1, there was a sense of confidence among Mets fans and the team – but it was short-lived.

My beloved Mets let the deciding game quickly slip away, and before we knew it, they were losing 6-0. The stadium felt like a morgue. Sitting through the final 90 minutes of the game gave me a lot of time to think – and questions raced through my mind.

This was an incredible team (in my mind)—how could they let it end this way? What happened to our most reliable players when we needed them the most? What WILL it take to win our first championship in nearly 40 years?

Is leadership the problem? We have one of the best, most experienced managers in the game. The players? We have some of the most elite players in their given positions. Teamwork? We won 101 games; that takes a team effort. Then it must be poor execution. Not really.

Both teams played on the same field with the same ball and the same rules. Sure, they could’ve gotten more hits and pitched better, but that’s part of the game. They had a plan, and they were prepared, but they came up short. As the team with a better record, the Mets even had a home-field advantage for all three games! So, where did things go wrong?

Perception can be deceiving

The Mets (and their fans) underestimated the competition, in this case, the San Diego Padres. We were already talking about how we would match up with our next opponent, the Los Angeles Dodgers. But the Padres had different plans and silenced the once raucous crowd in New York.

The Mets were facing some fiercer-than-expected competition, and it put them off balance. That’s no different than what we see in the business world every day. Whether it’s a tenacious start-up or a well-established revamped brand, competition is dynamic, and no company is impenetrable.

I’m not suggesting that execution isn’t critical; it is. In a world filled with incredible ideas and innovative companies, superior execution can take a business a long way. But great execution relies on keeping a close watch on current and future competitors.

Too often, businesses find themselves playing defense when it comes to competition. By that time, chances are the competition is already penetrating your accounts and stealing market share.

So how can businesses always stay one step ahead of the competition? Be different. It sounds simple, but it’s hard to do. The way a company differentiates itself needs to connect with the target audience. Most businesses fall back on some of the more common traits like speed, expertise, and global reach – but that’s not enough.

When you differentiate your business, you make it memorable and credible. It helps your prospects quickly understand what you do and what sets you apart from your competitors.

Differentiate and don’t waver

The secret to creating your differentiation or unique selling proposition (USP) is understanding what your ideal client really wants and making sure you deliver it better than anyone else. You need to have a deep understanding of the market and competition and then determine where you can uniquely offer something that the competition does not, packaged in a way that others cannot easily copy.

Don’t be fooled – this exercise is not easy to do. It takes a lot of thought, brainstorming, and sometimes some trial and error to see what works. Sometimes we are just too close to our businesses to truly see that differentiating quality that makes us stand out.

That’s what we do with our clients at Conversion Marketing, and it’s the work my team and I love to do. The opportunity to help businesses uncover what truly makes them unique is our passion – and bringing it to life is incredibly rewarding.

We don’t just preach the importance of differentiation to our clients; we practice it ourselves. Just last month, we re-launched Conversion Marketing, and it was much more than a branding exercise. We spent months on a deep introspective to determine what we’re best at and where we make the biggest impact for our clients.

In our case, we started to see a pattern of great collaboration, creative work, and strong results stemming from our partner marketing programs. Through work with AWS, Google, Microsoft, Salesforce, and other leading tech companies, we’ve developed a unique approach to building and executing successful partner campaigns.

The goal of brand differentiation is to offer what your competitors are not. If you do that, you will start to shine, and customers and prospects will quickly take notice. But to do this successfully, you can never take your eye off the competition – or they might just out-differentiate you. It’s a lesson I can only hope the Mets keep in mind heading into the 2023 season.

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