Have you ever wondered what makes successful businesses successful? The world’s most successful people have one thing in common: they think differently from everyone else. The reality is that being different in-itself may not guarantee success, but it’s a shockingly great rule of thumb to follow to get the attention you deserve.
Different people have different pain-points in products. Being perceptive is one of the biggest keys to being an entrepreneur — or just a successful business person. Be perceptive of your user’s wants, of your competition’s pitfalls, of the people who don’t like your competition’s pain-points and capitalize off of all of them.
There is always room to be different. To take a category that has been tried and tested, and then apply what people want. Where there is demand, you form supply, put it out there and you will succeed. It’s basic economics.
It’s also too hard to stand out in this day in age by just battling on quality. You have to stand out to be noticed, and that’s hard enough as it is. Controversy is an easy way to make a splash, and offering what your competition does not is an easy way to start that discussion.
Stop doing what everyone else is doing!
In business it’s important to do things differently because you want to carve out your own niche and reduce competition. The most successful businesses are usually highly innovative or early market adopters. Then competition closes in as the niche proves profitable. Being different in business puts you in a good place to find new markets, innovate, and get a head start on your competition.
If you’re just like everyone else, your only edge may be your price, which isn’t the greatest way to compete. By being different, you can challenge business-as-usual and find better ways of doing things that might endear you to customers or make you stand out from everyone else.
Dare to be different from your competition!
According to Youngme Moon, senior associate dean and chair of the MBA program at Harvard Business School, 99% of executives think their business is different from its competitors. Unfortunately, most consumers can’t tell the difference between one business’ offerings and those of similar businesses. Being different makes you irreplaceable to your customers, and being irreplaceable leads to greater loyalty.
And yet, many businesses are afraid to be different, because that means taking a risk and being alone, Youngme explained. Making it more difficult is the fact that, when businesses ask for customer feedback, the responses that come back often say, in essence, “Be more like this other company.” That’s because while customers can tell you how they want you to improve, they can’t tell you how to be different. That’s something you have to do on your own.
Commercials and marketing campaigns that challenge normalcy are extremely effective. The best marketing campaigns all do something to make you remember them. What are some of the ones you remember? And why? Go out there and develop a keen awareness of your surroundings. Observe what others around you are doing, and try to do something different and set yourself apart from the rest (within reason.)
So how do you separate yourself from other businesses like yours? Youngme suggested three ways:
1. Embrace the negative. Don’t be afraid to do something that people may not like. Youngme provided the example of IKEA, whose idea to make people assemble their own furniture has made them a unique and popular brand. Similarly, Twitter’s concept of 140-character messages in a world of over-sharing was not instantly embraced; now the social network has more than 200 million users.
2. Resist the temptation to over-listen to customers. Asking for feedback, and responding to it, is always valuable. But you can’t let your customers drive every aspect of what you do. Apple is one brand Youngme cited that doesn’t conduct any focus groups, and keeps customers guessing. And yet, time and again it produces products that become in demand as soon as they’re released.
3. Have an idea for how you will be different. Any idea can be a good one, even the crazy-sounding ones (see IKEA and Twitter). Unfortunately, most ideas that are deemed crazy are often dismissed. If you want to be different, you need to embrace a culture where any idea can be tried.
Instead of being better, why not try being different?
If your industry is stuffy, be the casual guy. If your industry is casual, be the unwavering professional. The goal is to stand out from the status quo.There are millions of ways to be different. It’s really not that difficult to come up with ideas that are as easy to do as a cannonball. The key is to make sure whatever you do is authentic to you, and that you back it up with the goods. And since you’ve been trying to be better anyway, I suspect you’re up to that challenge.
Dare to be different.
Image credit: Flausset (Flickr)