Let me be blunt. If you haven’t differentiated your business is it because you are too scared to be different?
In a survey people said that there were more scared of public speaking than dying!
That’s a bit extreme but some people don’t want to be the centre of attention, all eyes on them, watching what they do and listening to what they say.
Or what about the nightmare of being invited to a fancy dress party, getting dressed up in your Playboy bunny costume and getting to the party and finding out that your hosts changed their minds and it has become a black tie do?Just thinking about it sends shudders down my spine. Mind you, me in a bunny costume is not a pretty sight.
It can be like that when you think about differentiating your business.
The entire point is that you are standing out, different… even exposed.
The big name gurus say that you must be differentiated to earn big profits.
You see the problems of not being differentiated in your own purchases each week. The difficulty of making a buying decision when they all seem the same (and the worry that you made the wrong arbitrary choice). The frustration when you can find plenty of people selling what you don’t want and no one selling what you do.
You may also see the problems of not being differentiated in your own business.
The symptoms are pretty common:
- You find it difficult to attract leads
- Not enough of the leads you do get convert into customers
- You have far too many conversations about price and really feel the price to cut your prices
- You find it difficult to say what’s special about your business
- Your customers show little loyalty and are tempted away as soon as a better price is offered to them
- Your best staff leave you and go and work for your competitors
But there’s a feeling of safety about being one in the crowd.
You have a chance – even if it’s a small chance – of getting an order from anyone who enters the market because you haven’t made the tough decisions of ruling anyone out.
There’s a feeling of safety of doing what everyone else is doing.
Your competitors have a website so you have a website.
Your competitors advertise in Yellow Pages so you advertise in Yellow Pages.
Your competitors advertise in the local newspapers so you advertise in the local newspapers.
Your competitors add the special widget to their product so you add the special widget to your product.
There’s a glimmer of sense and a lot of madness in this approach.
It is sensible to look at your competitors and see what seems to be working well and to work around the theme.
If a lot of business is done through the Internet, then you should probably have a website if you can make it special.
But the world doesn’t need a lot of clones in any market.
We don’t need Microsoft 2 because we’ve got Microsoft.
Or Google 2 because we’ve got Google.
Or Apple 2 because we’ve got Apple.
Or Starbucks 2 because we’ve got Starbucks.
Or Aston Martin 2 because we’ve got Aston Martin.
I don’t even think the world wants another Paul Simister. Crazy I know but that’s life.
But we do want variations on a theme.
A PC operating system that doesn’t crash so often or slow the processor down.
A place to have afternoon tea with the emphasis on tea although I won’t say no to the little sandwiches, the small fancy cakes and the scones, jam and cream.
A fancy car that James Bond will drive and I can afford to buy without cashing in my life savings and selling the house.
Clone businesses survive because the cloned business is too busy or too expensive (mmm supply, demand and prices are linked – that’s interesting).
But what happens when the market dips down, like in these tough times, the business that is being copied still attracts plenty of clients because they are still first choice. The copies lose business and being near the bottom in a declining market is a very vulnerable place to be.
Perhaps you shouldn’t be too scared to differentiate but too scared not to differentiate.
Paul Simister is a business coach who helps small business owners to profit from differentiating their businesses, by being distinctive in the eyes of their customers and standing out in a crowded marketplace…. in other words, by building a business to be proud of.