Recently, I went to one of the world’s biggest markets. Over 2,500 vendors sell their wares every week at the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, California. You can buy almost anything, all of it old or used. My wife and I went there expecting to walk away with a mountain of bargains. Instead, we left with nothing. Why?
Because, despite the fact there were over 50,000 items available to buy, there was a dire shortage of stuff that was actually special or unique. If we are not careful, our businesses will end up with the same problem of offering plenty of stuff, but nothing extraordinary; selling goods that aren’t that good; and presenting services that serve nobody brilliantly.
The truth is, the world doesn’t need another okay business. Almost every industry is vastly over-catered for already. If we are to thrive in this overcrowded marketplace, we must do something, anything, to stand out from the pack. There are three fundamental ways to do this:
Make Your Product Extraordinary
Right now I’m betting you are producing a reasonable product at a reasonable price. But that is a dangerous place to be. The past ten years has shown us forcefully that reasonably good does not cut it anymore.
Take the cell phone industry as an example. Nokia and Motorola were both making quite good cell phones. Then Apple came along with the iPhone, something that not only transformed the entire cell phone industry, but also revolutionised how cell phone software was developed.
How could you make your product profoundly different from that produced by your competitors? Rather than just slightly better, as it probably now is. What could you add to it, or subtract from it, to make it really stand out from the sea of sameness in your industry? Take a few minutes now to have a think about this. It will be time exceedingly well spent.
Make Your Service Remarkable
What if, no matter how hard you try, you cannot think of a way to differentiate your product or service? No matter, all is not lost. Just make amazing service your point of differentiation. It is easy to do – just look at every point the customer comes into contact with you, and conjure up some way to make it special.
What could you say on the phone that would charm their socks off? How could you make their experience at your office or store really great? What about after sales service? How could you make that a little more unusual and remarkable? In a world where few companies do any of this, you have a genuine opportunity to make your service really shine, and thereby greatly increase both your sales and the percentage of customers who come back.
Here are some of the things we did at the last company I owned, an advertising agency:
- When clients came into our office for meetings, they weren’t just offered coffee or tea. They were given an actual menu of numerous coffees and six different teas they could choose from.
- Every 30 days, they filled out a ‘60-Second Monthly Review’, where they ranked us in five different quality areas.
- They were invited to boardroom lunches where interesting research was presented and, at night, to concerts and movies.
- They were sent important, recently-published books about business and marketing.
- On their birthdays, they received beautiful cards with written messages from our team.
Were we the best advertising agency in the city? Maybe, maybe not, but we certainly offered the finest, most memorable service. And so can you.
Make Your Marketing Different
Like it or not, potential customers often choose who they buy from, based on image. That being the case, how does your marketing and brand identity stack up? Does it shout, ‘Look at us, we’re really special!’ Or does it whisper, ‘Hey, don’t take any notice of us, we’re pretty much the same as everyone else’? If you don’t say something remarkable, or at least look remarkable, why on earth should anyone call you?
Pretend for a moment that you are not the owner of your business. Take a look at it as an outsider. When you peruse your website, your ads, your brochures and sales materials, do they startle you with their freshness, energy, relevance and uniqueness? No? Well maybe you should change them.
Appearances count. Branding matters. Advertising can be the crucial point of difference if your product or service doesn’t stand apart from your competition.
So folks, they are the three areas to look at when evaluating how to stand out from the pack. If you aspire to business greatness, they are not just ‘nice-to-haves’, they are ‘must-haves’.