On March 24th 1993 something very unusual happened. Something that only ever happened once.
Matt Le Tissier missed a penalty.
It was the first and only penalty miss of his entire professional football career.
Le Tissier is widely regarded as the best ever penalty taker. He has the best record in Premier League history – scoring 24 out of 25 penalties. Across his whole career he scored 47 out of 48 penalties (he also played in the pre–Premier League era).
It’s a conversion rate of 98%.
Compare that to Alan Shearer, the Premier League’s all time record goal scorer. Shearer scored 57 penalties. But he missed 10 more. A conversion rate of 85%.
Or Cristiano Ronaldo. He has scored 139 penalties. But has missed 27. A conversion rate of 84%.
Or Lionel Messi. He has scored 99 penalties. But has missed 29. A conversion rate of 77%.
If you had to choose someone to score a penalty to save your life, you’d pick Matt Le Tissier.
Why are we talking about this? We are all operating in a competitive environment. There is competition between different brands. Competition across different channels. Competition for different shoppers. Competition for different consumption occasions.
But most companies have limited resources. You can’t do everything everywhere. Nor would you want to.
It’s no good having a quality advantage on an attribute that doesn’t matter to most shoppers. It’s no good having great distribution in stores that very few shoppers shop in. It’s no good developing a new product for an occasion that few people are going to eat it at (ice cream for breakfast, anyone?).
Matt Le Tissier wasn’t brilliant at taking throw-ins. He was brilliant at taking penalties. And penalties really matter.
You need to pick your battles. The battles that matter. Then be better where it matters.
So, how can you do this?
Be better on the PRODUCTS that matter. There are products that a lot of shoppers buy and there are products that only a few shoppers buy. So, be better on the ones that most shoppers buy. If you’re in the crisps game it’s ready salted, cheese & onion, salt & vinegar. If you’re in the fruit juice game, it’s orange and apple. If you’re in the ready meals game, it’s lasagne and cottage pie. If you’re a retailer have the best bananas not the best apricots.
These aren’t the most exciting products. But they remain the most important products. It’s why M&S focus their “best ever” activity on the products that matter to the most shoppers.
Be better on the NEEDS that matter. There are product needs that matter to a lot of shoppers and there are product needs that matter to only a few shoppers. So, be better on the needs that matter to most shoppers. If you are a toilet paper, it’s softness and strength. If you are a deodorant, it’s efficacy. If you are a food or drink, it’s taste. No matter how many health benefits green tea has, if it tastes s**t, most people are not going to drink it.
Be better on the OCCASIONS that matter. There are occasions that most shoppers use products at and occasions that few shoppers use products at. So, be better on the occasions that most shoppers use your product at. If you are a cereal or fruit juice, be brilliant at breakfast. If you are biscuits, be perfect mid morning or mid afternoon. If you are ice cream, be brilliant at dessert.
This doesn’t mean that you don’t try to play and win in other occasions. Cereals are more than a breakfast solution. Biscuits can be eaten at breakfast. But don’t get so excited by the new occasions that you lose sight of the most important ones. The ones where you are most likely to be used.
Be better in the PLACES that matter. There are places where lots of shoppers shop and places where few shoppers shop. So, be better in the places where most shoppers shop. This still means the Big 4 supermarkets. But it also means discounter and value retailers. It also means convenience and on-the- go retailers. It also means eCommerce. It increasingly means fast delivery services. Being available to shoppers whenever they want to buy you. Are you better in the biggest channels? In the fastest growing channels?
Being better is good. But being better where it matters is…err, better.
Focus your effort on the things that make the most difference. Not the things that don’t.
By the way, the only penalty Matt Le Tissier missed was saved by Mark Crossley. Crossley saved over 50% of the penalties he faced in his professional career (16% is the average).
If anyone was going to save it, it was Crossley.
Feel free to forward. Have good weekend. Speak to you in a fortnight.