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be different

Dance to a different tune

hearts and handsOver the last 20 years of providing a wide range of marketing services to business owners, experience has taught me that the businesses that are narrow in their focus and deep in their knowledge do best.

Through plain luck, inspiration or a focused decision many have found that being different can be a competitive advantage. One that others can only imitate, but never compete with.

That’s because imitation is always incomplete. Competitors don’t see the life experience, skills, mistakes and learnings that are magically work together to create your ‘monopoly’.

And for the mature entrepreneur, a lifetime of knowledge, skills and wisdom can create a unique business idea.

The aim in planning for a second career is to choose a niche for your business and focus on it to ensure that it benefits a select group of customers or clients. That doesn’t mean your competitors won’t try to copy you.

If you have your wits about you, stay focused and work hard to keep your advantage, competitors will find it difficult to catch up.

I won’t be telling you that it is easy to do this. We humans are creatures of habit. It’s a brave person who stands out in a crowd. And it can be a lonely place to be.

How to create a monopoly

By daring to be different. To be human

To think and reflect on:

  • What do you love?
  • What keeps you up late into the night?
  • What problems would like to solve that would help you or others?
  • What can you do that other’s can’t
  • What would make Mondays a day to look forward to

You may of already been helping other people, or friends, with a problem they may of had. A problem that your unique skills or capability solved for them.

Now watch How to Be an Entrepreneur ,from The School of Life, with the philosopher, Alain De Botton

Finding a customer or client

This requires you to

  1. Seek out the people with the money to pay you to solve their problem
  2. Or, locate those with a problem that needs fixing, using your
  3. Recognise your unique skills, services, resources or systems special to you, then
  4. Having them tell other people about you and how you helped them

With thanks to Seth Godin’s article , Three elements to go beyond hourly freelancing

It has to be people focused; enough to stop people in their tracks; to shock them with the unexpected

Passion doesn’t always cut it

You can be passionate about a lot of things in life, but it won’t necessarily lead to a successful business. That’s because many of the things we are passionate about are shared by many others, such as fitness. How many personal trainers are out there competing with each other? Unless you have some really deep insight and useful solutions for the problems people have, or want fixed, it may be a tough call to make a living in a crowded and contested market.

That’s not to say that there aren’t any niches that you can take advantage of.

Take Fit Body Boot Camp, founded by Bedros Keulian in America. The focus is on 30 minute high intensity exercise to lose fat. Nothing else, that’s all they do and it’s going gang-busters. The system has now expanded to nearly 300 locations across the world.

There may be other opportunities staring you in the face, maybe already crowded like the fitness industry, but one that you are interested and can narrow down like the Fit Body Boot Camp.

Maybe that could be the basis for a business.

Don’t compete on price

If you start a business with lots of competition, pricing becomes a problem. The price most often is based on matching your competitors, or copying them, undercutting their prices, even benchmarking against them, nothing much will change – they will all look and charge the same.

The product or service becomes a commodity and can only compete on price. I recently purchased of a Remington electric shaver. My first one stopped working, so under warranty I was sent the new model. It’s pretty much the same as the last one with a few improvements, but really just a commodity product. I bought on ebay at the cheapest price I could find.

There’s no monopoly in a commodity. All you can do is either be the cheapest and try and sell lots more than your competitors and not go broke in the meantime. Don’t go there.

Market domination

Larger companies seek to dominate the market. But to be a dominant player nowadays means to get to about 40% of market share if they can. Then aggressively guard that position through cutting prices or out-advertising their competitors. In Australia think breakfast cereals – Kellogs , Uncle Toby’s (Nestle) and Sanitarium products. Their domination is being eroded by Home Brand products such as Aldi and some premium breakfast cereal products. The premium cereal products don’t compete with the dominant brands but eat into their market share. They chose to compete differently and nibble away at the majors. There’s still a living to be made at the margins.

It’s uncommon to be different

Narrow your focus, choose your customer group to target and seek to create a meaningful experience for them. That might mean becoming the expert in a small geographical area, or larger region. It doesn’t always work. Being different really uses up a lot of energy and can be quite scary.

I can guarantee you that it is easier to market a business online when you are focused on a niche and build up the content or media that connects with the audience ( or tribe ) looking for you. Website traffic just goes up and up.

It’s almost simple. Try to be everything, and you compete with everyone else. You’re lost in a crowd.

Narrow your focus, choose the customers you want to attract and work hard to connect with them.

Create a business that they want to do business with. Youngme Moon makes the case well in the introduction to her book ‘Different’, watch it here:

Disclaimer. I’ve yet to see a website become an overnight sensation. It takes focus, hard work, attention, thinking, a budget and time to make this happen. Mind you if you have a $5million plus budget we could have a good go at it.