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What Does the Market Really Want From You?

What Does the Market Really Want From You?

May 29, 2008

If you're trying to compete on price, you'll never be more than a 'me too' business.

The big question to ask is: 'How can you offer way too much for a customer to resist?' How do you pick those points in your business that set you far and above the crowd and how can you organize (or reorganize) your business around those points?

Your answer to those questions can be answered with this one question, which is the biggest of them all: What can you be the best at in the world?

This is the key for the growth of your company. Many of us realized what we can do well, and what we can do to make money, but we don't ask the brutal question, 'What can we do better than anybody else?'

For example, McDonald's does not make the best hamburger. But they do make the best system for providing inexpensive and quickly prepared hamburgers consistently. They picked the niche to be the best at fast food hamburgers. Wendy's picked a niche at having better hamburgers as well as a good system.

Years ago, there was a contest between Federal Express and Airborne Express. Airborne decided that they would take packages of all sizes and they would take people on the planes with them. Federal Express' motto was, 'All we do is ship small packages overnight, and for that we'll be the best in the world.'

But you don't have to be big to be the best. It's better to be the best in your small pond.

CheckPoint Mailers is a great example. The company has placed drop-off kiosks in the security lines at 20 airports so if you have your uncle's favorite penknife or your grandmother's heirloom scissors with you, you can drop it into the kiosk, have it mailed to you and not worry about having it confiscated by security. What a great idea! Now the company is expanding into other airports as it continues to capitalize on a narrow niche that didn't even exist until 9/11.

If you grab a lot, you don't get anything.
If you grab a little, you get it.

Most people try to 'grab too much.' Paradoxically, if you grab a little, in the end, you will end up with more. What I mean by that is that entrepreneurs will often try to grab too much by trying to be everything to all people. That can be a disaster!

Many department stores went out of business because they tried to be all things to all people. But those stores that specialized in a specific niche in the market continue to outperform the rest. Starbucks does not provide you the best meal, they provide you with the best cup of coffee in a warm, jazzy environment. Once you pick your specialty, you may then move on; but never move far from what you can be best at in the world.

For instance, once Federal Express established itself as the small-package shipper it was able to expand to packages of all sizes. British Airways began as the airline carrier devoted to just business class travel and was later able to expand to offering coach airfare. This a very powerful lesson no one talks about: The power of elmination in the beginning gives you the power to deversify later.

Your speciality does NOT end with '-er'

Not fast-er, cheap-er or bigg-er. Simply changing the price by a few dollars is not the secret of big breakthroughs. In fact, it's better to not have an '-er' as your specialty. You should not specialize per se, in merely being faster, cheaper, bigger, although those are things that do bring in more customers.

A business must provide some uniqueness or innovation that gives meaning and value, something special. And it is precisely that unique meaning, that innovation that other copycat businesses will try to knock off and sell for cheaper or better.

Most people are imitators rather than innovators. In a survey of people in Canada, France and North Africa, for instance, roughly two-thirds were more likely to imitate than innovate, according to the book, Meaningful Marketing. There is nothing you can do to prevent imitators from copying you, and the only way your business can survive is through further innovation. Just as you started your business with its unique meaning so must you continue, through further innovation. Only with continuous breakthroughs and more innovation and product development will you have a chance at staying in the business.

What can your business be first at?

If you are the best at something, but there is someone else doing it, set up another category that you can be first at.

For example, who was the first person to fly across the Atlantic? Charles Lindbergh. Who was the second person? It was Bert Hinkler. But who remembers #2? Nobody!

If you are a woman, you can set up a new category. Who was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic? Amelia Earheart. Who was the second woman to fly over the Atlantic? Nobody knows and nobody cares ' maybe it was Mrs. Hinkler! The point is that if you are not first, you must set up another category to be first.

Before the advent of online ordering, there were many booksellers. Amazon created a new category ' books online and on demand.

IBM and numerous other companies (including Hewlett Packard) were providing computers, but nobody was providing computers that you could build yourself by speaking with a telephone agent. Dell created a new category that they could be first at: 'custom-built computer ' quick, easy and inexpensive.' Today, Dell is the largest supplier of PCs in the U.S. with sales of $61 billion.

At the beginning of the Internet world, one company said, 'We don't have to be another sales company. We'll be first at organizing it. We have three guiding principles: organization of other websites so that anyone can search online, with speed and simplicity.' Meet Google.

What can you be first at that will set you apart from your competitors?