Unfortunately for Burger King and Wendy’s, they are not going to get ahead by doing the same old thing, but just being a little bit better at it. In a world with massive competition, businesses need to stand out from the crowd.
They need to un-commoditize. That’s what Burger King and Wendy’s are missing. Next to McDonald’s they’re just commodities, even if they are a little better. So if you can’t be McDonald’s, be Taco Bell or Starbucks instead. Don’t be Wendy’s or Burger King.
The beauty about un-commoditizing your business is that it puts you in a category of your own. When you are in your own category, there’s nothing to compare you with. When there’s nothing to compare you with, then there’s no set expectations for how much you should cost.
When that happens, guess who gets to set the expectations? You do, which means you can set your prices drastically higher and radically increase your profit margins. If you can effectively bring in and keep customers without having to compete on price, then you’re probably going to be rich. Does that sound okay with you?
To help you do that, I’ve included a list of 11 strategies that you can use to un-commoditize your business.
1. Go with a different look
Marketing expert, Perry Belcher tells of a company he worked with that imported heat sealers from China. “Everybody in the world brings in these little heat sealers from one company in China. They’re an aqua blue color and… just scream, I’m a Chinese heat sealer!”
Belcher was able to command a higher price for the exact same heat sealer simply by making it look different. He had the heat sealers painted red instead of blue (which probably didn’t cost him any extra) and sold them through a company with an American sounding name.
Apple does something similar with their shiny white computers that sell for three times the price of a PC. Going with a different look is probably not the only way that you’ll want to stand out, but it might be a great way to start.
“Be the one to stand out in the crowd.” – Joel Osteen
2. Be aggressively devoted to premium quality
Speaking of Apple, how many times have you heard that one of their products just bombed? Answer: Not recently. In fact, it was reported that preorders for their watch sold out in a matter of hours. Compare that with their main competitor, Microsoft, who has had significant problems with two out of the last four Windows updates.
No wonder Apple products cost so much more. And it’s not just Apple. Think of names like:
- The Four Seasons
These are companies that do not compete on price. They get rich competing on quality.
3. Bundle physical products with your information products
Thanks to the Internet, selling information products is easier than ever. As a result, everybody is selling information products. After all, why not? The profit margin can be up to nearly 100%. The downside of this is that it becomes very hard to stand out.
With all this competition we’re seeing much lower prices for certain information products than you would have seen only a few years ago. But, if you’re interested in getting rich, then competing on price is a bad idea. Instead, find a way to stand out and charge even higher prices.
A great way to do this is to bundle information products with physical products. For example: A company that sells a course on how to be a better skier could bundle the course with a set of skis and charge a much higher price.
4. Bundle information with your physical goods
This is the reverse of what I was just talking about. The Internet has created massive competition for sellers of information and physical goods alike. By bundling information products with your physical goods you can drastically increase profit margins.
Using the same type of example as before: Instead of just selling a set of skis, you could sell them along with a course on how to be an expert skier. By using this strategy you can raise the price significantly, without increasing costs very much.
Luckily, information products are not too hard to come by. You can partner with someone who sells information products. You can offer to publish an information product that someone has created or wants to create. Or, if you have the expertise, the time and the interest, you can create your own information products. (Note: Just make sure that the information products you use are always top notch.)
5. Create a subcategory
Charles Lindbergh was the first person to fly the Atlantic solo. That’s fairly common knowledge. Do you happen to know who the second person was? Nobody knows, even though Bert Hinkler actually did a better job. He made the trip in less time and with less fuel.
But, in business poor Bert would have been nothing more than a me-too product that people ignore. The dominating spot in his market had already been taken, and sometimes people just don’t care if you can do the job better. There’s already a name that they trust.
If you’re new to a market that already has a leader, then you need to create your own subcategory that nobody has claimed yet. You’ve possibly heard of the third person who flew the Atlantic solo. Her name was Amelia Earhart. But no one remembers her as the third person to get the job done. She was the first woman to get the job done. She had her own subcategory.
Want an example? Between Apple and Microsoft the personal computer market is pretty competitive. But what if a company came along and created its own computers with an operating system that is designed specifically and exclusively for gamers?
Between Microsoft having had way too many problems in the last few years and Apple not really focusing on the videogame market, a company who did a great job creating and marketing a computer exclusively for gamers might be very successful.
“Today we’re living in an anti-Waldo world, where you don’t want to blend in and have people struggle to find you. You want your personal brand to stand out like you’re wearing a red and white sweater, and everyone else has on black.” – Jarod Kintz
6. Create a better guarantee
With so many swindlers out there your customers obviously need to know that they’re not stepping into a trap they can’t get out of. Hopefully that’s not news to you. Unfortunately, in many markets having a 60 day 100% money back guarantee is more of a given than a bonus these days.
Just about everyone has some type of guarantee. If you want to stand out, why not try offering something much better than everyone else. For example you could try offering to refund 110% of your price to any unsatisfied customer. Obviously your risk is slightly higher with such a guarantee.
But your likelihood of losing money instead of gaining much more money with this kind of guarantee is extremely low, assuming you’re offering a quality product or service. What type of superior guarantee could you offer in your business?
7. Be a contrarian brand
Whether it be corporate giants, big government, the media or even some charity organizations, people just don’t trust the mainstream establishment anymore. There’s been one too many stories about corporate deception, political bribes and media coverups.
Sometimes to be successful, you can’t just be a little different than everyone else. You have to be the opposite. In The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing Al Ries and Jack Trout write:
“A good No. 2 [brand] can’t afford to be timid. Burger King’s most successful years came when it was on the attack. It opened with “Have it your way,” which twitted McDonald’s mass-manufacturing approach to hamburgers. Then for some unknown reason Burger King got timid and stopped attacking McDonald’s. It even started a program to attract little kids, the mainstay of McDonald’s strength. Burger King’s sales per unit declined and have never returned to the level they were when it was on the attack.”
How could you attack the status quo and make your business an opposite brand? Remember: What you’re offering doesn’t have to be the exact opposite or even necessarily very different. What has to be opposite is your message and how you position yourself.(Note: After all, Burger King was never really that different from McDonald’s.)
8. Create an outstanding acquisition offer
Thanks to the Internet creating a global marketplace, small businesses can reach more customers than ever before. But the Internet is a mixed blessing. Yes, you can reach a vastly increased pool of potential customers. But, you are also placed next to a vastly increased number of competitors.
Add this to the fact that today’s buyers are more skeptical than ever, and you may have a real problem on your hands. The good news is that all your competitors face that same dilemma, which gives you a chance to get ahead of them… if you use smart strategies.
Today’s buyers are so skeptical, they tend to stick with brands that they know and trust. But, how are they ever going to trust you if they never give you a chance? The trick is getting that first sale which allows you to knock their socks off and prove that your brand is the one that deserves their business.
A great way to do this is with an acquisition offer. An acquisition offer is a high-value, low priced offer that allows you to acquire a new customer and prove to them the quality of your brand. If you can prove to them that your brand offers great quality and service, then they’ll probably keep on buying from you in the future.
Cable/Internet companies have a tendency to do this by offering a deeply discounted rate for a limited time. During that discounted phase they’re hoping to prove how great their service is, so that you’ll stay with them long-term.
An example of a similar strategy is McDonald’s dollar menu. Maybe you go there just to buy that one dollar burger. But what do they do once you’re there? They ask “Would you like fries and coke with that?” I guarantee you, they’re not getting rich off the sale of one dollar burgers. They’re getting rich off the sale of side dishes and soft drinks.
9. Focus on a benefit your competitors don’t talk about
Sometimes what you sell doesn’t actually have to be different. Sometimes what is different is what you say and who you say it to. Let’s say there are five different companies that buy the same type of soap from the same manufacturer.
One company emphasizes how good their soap is for dry skin. One company emphasizes the powerful germ killing effect of their soap. Another company tells people that they offer THE soap to use if you want to smell and feel like an attractive lady. One company emphasizes how refreshed and clean their customers will feel after they get out of a shower with this soap. The last company emphasizes how effective their soap is at eliminating body odor.
Now, these companies might have asked for a bit of customization. Maybe they each have their logos on the bars of soap. Maybe one company asked for their soap to be colored blue while another asked for pink, but they are all selling the same exact soap!
None of them are lying. All the soap being sold by these companies is good for dry skin, eliminating B.O., killing germs and so on. Yet these five companies are able to sell the exact same product to different target markets simply by emphasizing different benefits.
The beauty is that all five might end up being very successful even if they charge high prices, because they’re just selling next to each other. They’re not competing with each other.
10. Describe your process and why it’s good (even if it’s not unique)
Let’s take that last soap example a little bit further. Let’s say that there is a sixth company that starts buying some of the same soap from the soap manufacturer. They’re just passionate about the germ killing effects of this soap and they don’t want to come up with a different angle to use to sell to a different target market.
Their problem is that there is already another company, with an established brand, selling that same product to that same market. The new company will want to find a way to differentiate itself. This can actually be as simple as telling their customers why their product works so well.
Instead of just saying: “Our soap is THE soap to use to kill germs.” They can say: “Our soap is THE soap to use to kill germs because we include powerful, state-of-the-art antibiotics in our formula. The germs won’t stand a chance.”
By saying this, they are able to differentiate themselves and sell the exact same product to the exact same market for the exact same reason. If they sell their product using this message they may be able to get a serious advantage over the company that was already selling to the germ killing market.
Because they sell it as a product using state-of-the-art science, they could likely charge an even higher price than the already established company. It doesn’t matter that the first company has those antibiotics too, because the customer doesn’t know that.
And the first company can’t suddenly start talking about the powerful antibiotics in their formula, because they will then look like the me-too company. They’ll have to come up with a new reason why they are still the best germ killing soap company.
11. Offer out of this world customer service
Am I the only one who hates having to call help or customer support at companies? First you have to wait forever to actually talk to a person. You never know if they’re actually going to know what they’re doing and be helpful or if they will be ignorant, stubborn or rude.
So why not be the company that blows their customers away with how good they are treated? Try these:
- Try guaranteeing to answer the phone by the third ring.
- Try offering to have someone come out to your customer’s home or office to help them assemble your product and/or teach them how to use it.
- Follow up after a purchase with a friendly phone call and make sure everything is alright. Ask if they have any questions or anything else you can help them with.
- Be relentlessly helpful, friendly and generous every step of the way.
Un-commoditizing your business is not only possible. It’s essential if you want to compete and win in a competitive global marketplace.
Once you un-commoditize your business, you’ll have the power to drastically raise prices and increase profit margins without getting compared to cheaper alternatives. If you truly and successfully un-commoditize your business then there are no alternatives.
These 11 strategies can help you stand out in business. So, which un-commoditizing strategy are you going to try first?
How to Create a Winning Startup Culture
Some time back, in my infographic on 51 Business Mistakes that most Entrepreneurs Make, I had outlined that one of the biggest mistakes is that you do not give any thought as to what you consider would be a great startup culture. And, without good policies or HR to keep things in check, the startup begins to develop a toxic business culture. (more…)
51 Mistakes That Can Sabotage Your Dream Startup
So you’ve got an idea. You know it will work. And, it means the world to you.
You are an entrepreneur and you think you can rock the world with this one idea that matters to you the most. And, you set out to form the idea into a startup that you are going to nurture and develop into a blooming business in the upcoming years.
However, I don’t want to throw water over your dreams but, I do need to bring this “optimist” you into the hard and cold reality…….. the reality which says that 90% of all startups fail.
Of course, this can bring a great deal of uncertainty into your life and you got to be prepared to deal with it. You are also going to face a ton of challenges in your life which will force you to grow as an entrepreneur. But, the important thing is that you stick with it.
Of course, as Charlie Munger (Warren Buffett’s friend) once said, “All I Want to Know is Where I’m Going to Die So I’ll Never Go There”. No entrepreneurs want their startups to fail after putting in days and weeks of effort into it.
So, a lot of research has been put forward into knowing what does actually sabotage a startup?
Fortune reported that the single biggest reason startups fail was because they do not identify what the market wants before setting up their startup.
However, it isn’t as simple as that. An entrepreneur needs to perform a comprehensive business plan before he sets out with his business idea. Also, you have to know whether your business idea actually suits you or not. If it doesn’t then, you either you need to fine-tune yourself with your business idea or you need to change the business plan so that it suits you.
And, it is only after that, should you venture upon your startup.
Now, is that all? Of course not. The problem most entrepreneurs face when they first begin their entrepreneurial journey is that they don’t know what they don’t know.
That’s where they tend to make a series of mistakes that may cause great harm to their startup.
That’s why I scoured for successful entrepreneurs to provide me with information on what they think were the most common mistakes that startups do. Plus, I also got tips on how to avoid these mistakes.
You can check out the original article here: 70 Mistakes Startups Make And Tips On How You Can Avoid Them
Now, it’s your turn to do some work. Let me know what you thought of these mistakes and tips that entrepreneurs commit. Do you know of any other mistakes that entrepreneurs do? Comment below!
8 Key Factors That Discourage Investors From Putting Money Into Your Startup
Today’s ideas are tomorrow’s winning businesses. Ideas executed brilliantly and with proper investment bring your business success. That is how the world of business got the likes of Apple, Google, McDonald’s, Amazon and so on.
But why in spite of the brilliant and promising ideas at the core of their business, many startups fail to attract investors? Why do investors hesitate to put their money into some startups? Well, investors have reasons and only by deciphering these reasons we could get hold of some deterrent factors that hold them back.
Let us explain some of the vital factors that prevent investors from putting their money in the startups below:
1. Inefficiency or Absence of Leadership Qualities
Inefficiency is the most significant deterrent factor for pulling the success of most startups. This can also be referred to as the lack of leadership qualities. Investors always want to make sure that they don’t lose their money through a company that has an extraordinary business model but no efficient and skilled business leader to make it successful. When fetching investment from investors, you need to offer a clear prospect and detailed plan of how you are going to achieve the goals.
2. Lack of Trustworthiness
An investor puts his money on a venture purely on the basis of the credibility and trustworthiness of the business. This is why besides having a sound business plan with clear objectives, you need to establish the integrity in terms of the security of the investor’s money and how the fund is going to be invested to give results as per business plan.
If an investor has a feeling that the startup may not have enough customers to fulfil its financial liabilities or if it finds that the business is hiding some information, it may further push the trust of the investors down. Total transparency and establishing the faith of the business brand are crucial for finding investors in favor.
3. Lacking Experience in Business Management
You have a great business idea backed up by a sound business plan and solid trustworthiness based on your background, but you have zero experience in managing a business. This is a serious reason for an investor to deny making any investment in your business. An investor cannot put his money just to allow you trying and learning your management skills the harder and riskier way. Uncertainty is the single biggest turn-off factor for any investor and lack of managerial experience is synonymous to that.
4. Business Model is Not Sound Enough
You have a business idea, some efficient, competent and experienced professionals as leaders, the great stamp of trust and pretty much everything that make a company look promising. But what about your business strategy and business model? Are they sound enough to take on the market competition and challenges for business growth? Well, this is what investors are most interested in.
In most cases, a business model is what makes an investor think twice and even take a backward step from investing in a startup. After all, your business model and strategy will decide how your business and products will be able to withstand competition and become victorious.
5. Taking Investors for Granted
This is a big mistake on the part of many startups. Just by becoming confident in the potential and the soundness of the business model and prospect, a business can consider getting investors on board requires just a little effort and time. But in reality, getting investors on board is the toughest thing a business can think of.
This is why without proper and meticulous preparation, it would be foolish to approach investors for your business. Most investors receive hundreds of such emails and a similar number of approaches through other means and they coldly just let them pass. This is why you need to send them very detailed proposals backed by strong recommendations and referrals.
6. Targeting the Wrong Investor
Every business has a target customer base, right? Not all customers are interested in every product in the market. Similarly, not all investors are interested in your business. Investors based on their prior experience and industry exposure, put their money in businesses that they know like their own palm of their hand.
So, targeting an investor who has no interest in your business will only drain your energy and bring you unnecessary frustration. When you are seeking investors for your software startup, don’t approach someone investing in real estate business.
7. Non-Realistic Proposal for Funds
Investors normally come with huge experience of your industry and so they have a clear idea about the fund requirements for your business startup. Moreover, they already have invested in other ventures or have gone through many proposals. Naturally, they have every bit of estimate already in their mind. So, any proposal claiming a lofty and unrealistic amount will only face rejection.
This is why it would be wise to become meticulous about your estimation of the required fund and calculation of various cost factors. Have meticulous details about every facet of investment backed up by breakup of the costs. Only when you can convince them with correct estimation, investors can take interest in discussing the matter further.
8. Make Sure Your Product Solves a Customer Problem
Will any investor put money in building a simple calendar app now? No, simply because such an app idea has no value for the end users now. Will an investor put money in a product that has already been outdated and has no use? No, no investor has to even go through such a proposal for dismissing them.
Well, to fetch investment, your product must be thoroughly customer-centric. It not only has to solve a problem but has to deliver some competitive value in comparison to similar products in the market.
Obviously, finding an investor for a new business is not an easy task, considering the huge competition that businesses need to deal with. But, if your business idea is unique and you fill all those requirements correctly as mentioned above, finding investors may not be as tough as it sounds.
5 Must Have Branding Tools for Your Startup
Your brand is more than just the colors on your website. And for startups, it’s important to create a strong and memorable brand from the beginning if you want to stand out from the competition, scale your company, and find your ideal customers faster.
Here are 5 simple tools that will help your company avoid branding mistakes, take charge of your visual identity, and set a solid foundation for future growth:
1. Graphic Design Software
The word “design” doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Before deciding on your startup’s logo, colors, designs, and overall tone, consider working with a brand strategist who can translate the core ingredients of your startup into a visual identity that speaks to your target market.
Brand strategists have expertise in the psychology of colors, shapes, textures, and words, and they will work with you to make sure that your branding appeals to your target audience. Once you have those basics of your brand established, there are several tools that can help your company refresh and maintain your visual identity.
The absolute best graphic design tool for non-designers is Canva. While the free version has a lot of functionality, the paid plans offer more customization such as the ability to import your exact brand fonts and colors.
But if your company handles all of your design in-house, you will need something more advanced than Canva. In that situation, I would recommend Adobe Creative Cloud to startups who work on their designs in-house, as it includes top-notch design software like Photoshop, Illustrator, Lightroom, InDesign, and more.
“Branding is what people say about you when you are not in the room – Jeff Bezos
2. Visuals & Creative Imagery
Have you ever wondered where your competitors get those beautiful branded photographs that end up on their website? While it’s possible that they worked with a photographer, it’s also likely that much of their imagery comes from stock photos.
Here are my recommendations on the exact places to purchase stock imagery to improve your company’s branding:
- Creative Market – A treasure trove of quality visual imagery where you can buy anything from stock photos, to branding mockups, to social media templates (Facebook cover photo, anyone?), to custom fonts… the options are nearly endless.
- Adobe Stock – Beloved by designers, and the platform offers tiered pricing plans based on your image needs and download quantity.
- Pixels – If you’re on a tight budget and just need to grab an image or two for a blog post, you may be able to find what you need on Pixels – which is great because all of the photos and videos on Pixels are free!
3. Social Media Scheduler
You’re a leader. You’re an entrepreneur. Your staff, board, funders, and admirers depend on you to make big decisions, lead the ship, and plot the vision towards your company’s future. You don’t have time to stare at a blank screen every day wondering what to post on Facebook.
By using a social media scheduling tool, you can sit down for a few hours, schedule batches of content, and schedule the dates and times when it will post to your accounts over the next couple of months. Then, once the content is posted, you only need to worry about responding to comments and engaging with your customers. 21st century efficiency at its finest.
Popular social media schedulers include Buffer and Hootsuite, both of which include free and paid plans. Not sure what exactly to post? Check out these social media ideas from influential businesses. And if the idea of writing and planning months of content still overwhelms you, our next tool will help you stay organized and on-brand.
4. Editorial Calendar
When it comes to your content, it’s time to step it up a notch and start thinking like a media outlet. Every piece of content that you put out as a company, whether it’s an e-mail blast, blog post, social media post, podcast, or video, needs to be aligned with your brand.
Each major magazine maintains an editorial calendar which outlines the overarching theme for each of the upcoming 12+ months. By establishing a monthly content theme in advance, they create a framework to generate and organize their ideas.
Consider creating an internal editorial calendar that will guide your startup’s content over the next 6-12 months. The software tool you use to maintain your editorial calendar isn’t that important — I like to use Trello, but you can also create a simple numbered list in Google Docs or Microsoft Excel. You may be surprised at how quickly the creative juices flow once you have an editorial calendar in place.
“Design is the silent ambassador of your brand.” – Paul Rand
5. In-Person Networking
Offline efforts count towards your branding too! And if you run your entire startup from behind your laptop screen, you miss out on ample opportunities to build your business offline and gain local referral partners.
If you’re new to in-person networking, start by visiting Meetup.com or Eventbrite.com where you can browse for events in your area. Think outside the box when it comes to selecting events to attend. For example: If you’re a chiropractor, it makes sense to attend local holistic health meetups. But you could also attend a travel event and meet digital nomads who don’t yet realize that a chiropractor can help them recover after long plane rides.
Remember that you’re not at the networking event to make instant sales, you’re looking for referral partners and connections. Don’t be the person who tries to shove your sales pitch down everyone’s throat upon meeting them.
As you can see, there are many simple online and offline resources that can help you spruce up your branding, reach new customers, and pique the interest of your target market. If you take branding one step at a time and start with the tools above, you will be well on your way to creating a brand that your customers will cherish and remember.
Have you used any of these branding tools before? Are there any additional tools that have helped your startup’s branding shine? Share your thoughts below!
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