There’s too much competition being boring
I was recently listening to one of my favourite podcasts – The Tim Ferris Show – and heard this episode with Derek Sivers, the founder of CD Baby. There are a lot of gems in it and I highly recommend you listen to the full podcast, but one part that struck me was a story Derek told about how he decided to inject some personality into his business.
Did he create a new brand, get new logos and graphics created, hire or retrain his team on a new company philosophy? No, initially he simply sat down and re-wrote the “order confirmation” email so that it was personal, full of flair, and really ‘spoke’ to his customers. It took all of about 20 minutes and made all the difference to how customers thought about the business. Here’s an extract from it;
Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.
A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure it was in the best possible condition before mailing.
Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.
We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in our private CD Baby jet on this day, Friday, June 6th.
I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year”. We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!
People LOVED this email – so much so that many of them shared it with friends and posted it on their websites.
Suddenly, his business became remarkable. He had given customers something to “Remark” about. Something specific to tell their friends about.
Which is More Dangerous – being Safe or being Risky?
But was it risky? Yes, although the new copy is infinitely more delightful (and we know now that it was highly successful), at the time is was definitely much less professional than the standard format. He took a risk to be different. Which is exactly what Seth Godin’s book “Purple Cow” is about. (And I love that the name of this comes from Seth driving through country France – where I live now – and firstly being captivated by the beautiful cows, but after a short time, they’d just become part of the landscape. But if he’d seen a purple cow…)
Anyway, in this book Seth argues that to play it safe is the riskiest strategy of all. Why? Because there’s too much competition in the “boring” category – that’s where everyone else is playing! To stand out, you need a clear difference that is noticed and meaningful to your market. And note, this is not about being the best quality. It’s simply about finding a way to be different.
Your Business – You Decide
The great thing about being the business owner / founder is that you get to decide what type of company you want have. Remember why you’re in business. Take a leaf out of your own personality or personal style and insert that. Look at where you could add just an element of pizzazz that will make your business truly remarkable.
Recently, I came across a business owner who was torn about whether to offer a money-back guarantee on the product she sells. She mentioned that when she’s done this in the past, she hasn’t had many returns but the ones that did request a refund absolutely infuriated her. Now while I’m all for great customer service (it’s a big part of my background), this business owner was not in alignment with refunds. Fine! Do something different. Because you get to choose 🙂
Seth says that “if you’re remarkable, it’s likely that some people won’t like you. … That’s part of the definition of remarkable. Nobody gets unanimous praise – ever.” So realise that you’re not going to please everyone and choose the type of people you want to please by deciding what it is that defines your business.
Practical Ideas for Building a Remarkable Business
There are lots of things you can do but here are a few thoughts to get you thinking.
- Have an amazing returns policy. (Or don’t.)
- Host the best customer parties.
- Have a whacky logo or signage – go on, insert some humour and have fun.
- Be known for looking after your team. Promote them on your website, give them great uniforms, office space or gifts, or give them a high public profile.
- Be the most environmentally friendly business you know. Find ways to let customers know and educate them about the steps you take and lead them along the same path.
- Personally answer your customers’ emails.
- Take the time to phone and talk to customers about their experiences.
- Let customers get involved in the design of your products or services. (Eg can they vote on menu items for a restaurant, let you know which features they require for a product upgrade etc.)
- Choose a marketing platform no-one else in your industry uses. Everyone online? Try printed catalogues. Facebook too crowded? Be the master of LinkedIn.
- Go out on a limb with a promise of speed.
- Do an edgy advertising campaign.
Whatever you do, don’t be boring. Boring gets you nowhere.