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Get to Aha! by Andy Cunningham

The full title of this book by Andy Cunningham is

Get to Aha!: Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition“.

Normally I have a simple rule, the book has to earn four stars to be considered worthy of featuring on this blog. I only gave this book Three Stars in my review at Amazon.co.uk and yet, I’ve decided to feature it.

Let me explain why.

It’s a specialised technology strategic marketing book masquerading as a book written for the general market. As a result, I graded it as Three Stars, but, if it had included Technology Businesses in the title/subtitle, I’d have given it Four Stars.

Here is my review.

Very interesting for technology based businesses (Four Stars) but for the rest Three Stars

This book about positioning is interesting since it says that your position in your market isn’t so much about choice but is hardwired into the type of business you have – your business DNA.

You make the most of what you are and the natural advantages you have and, if you try to go against your DNA, success will be hard if not impossible.

Reading the book brought to mind an analogy I make in my business coaching about lining up your strategy with your strengths.

Contrast the physical build of world class athletes in sprinting, long distance running, the high jump and the shot put.

Now think about the Olympic gold medal winner in the shot put setting his or her heart on winning the gold medal in the high jump. It’s not going to happen. Your strengths from your DNA give you potential in only one area.

The book identifies three broad types of DNA – mother (customer focused), mechanic (product focused) or missionary (with a vision of changing the world). Just like Michael Porter’s recognition of the clashes between differentiation and cost leadership, it doesn’t mean you forget about the importance of the other areas but you manage the trade-offs in one direction.

The book then goes on to explain more about strategic positioning as it relates to more factors including the environment and competitors. It also covers the development of a message architecture.

The book isn’t very long and once you get past the core DNA, it feels skimpy. The author explains the message architecture using her own consultancy firm. While this may gave seemed like a good idea, it feels like a long advertisement.

The author worked with Steve Jobs in Apple and has a bias towards technology companies. She asserts that the ideas will work in any type of business and I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t. However many of the stories and examples are based on technology and you may not get much from them.

The book ends with six case studies of clients of the authors. Five of these involve technology and the other is in the pharmaceutical industry. Inevitably these add to the marketing value of the book for the author.

I feel this is very interesting for technology based businesses and I completely agree that everything in the business must be aligned with its positioning. For these businesses, I’d probably rate it at the Four Stars level, which for me means Good and Well Worth Reading”

However for non-technology businesses I feel it is less useful and that’s been my background and who I tend to help and write reviews for.

Three or Four Stars? If it had been marketed for technology businesses in the title, I’d have given it Four Stars, although I may not have read it. Since it’s written for the general business market, I feel the author needed to work harder to make it relevant to businesses outside of the technology sector to earn an increase from three to four stars.

Reading the book, I’m reminded of the well established idea of Value Disciplines developed by Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema. A quick recap on Value Disciplines is that there were three broad ways companies can develop a consistent, effective way of working. These are Customer Intimacy, Product Excellence and Operational Excellence.

Mapping DNA to these value disciplines, I think the missionary is a particularly advanced form of innovative product leadership and operational excellence isn’t particularly relevant in the technology world except at the bottom end of selling generic products at very low prices.

You can get it from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com


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