By Michael Di Lauro
Believe it or not, the last thing the world needs is another small business.
Thinking of opening a pizza parlor? Right, I never saw one of those before.
A hair salon? Oh, how original.
A social media site? Getting bored here.
A business coach? A wedding photographer? An accountant? Oh, groan…..
If you're thinking about any of the above, thanks but no thanks.
No really. I mean it. I'm fine. All stocked up.
And yes, I know you'll want to refute my position (it's happened before. Many times.) Some might even come armed with supporting statistical evidence relating population and demographics.
OK, fine. If you do, and if you're convincing enough… I'll still be unmoved.
Because most new businesses are nothing more than a collection of me-too, cookie cutter look-alikes, each one indistinguishable, unoriginal and notable only in its insignificance.
Look at it from the buyer's perspective. Do you think that folk are wandering their neighborhoods grumbling that there aren't enough grocery stores?
If people do complain (those not already worn down to a lifeless stupor) it might be about the sameness of it all.
"Oh look," they'll say, "How wonderful. Another coffee shop just like the one across the street."
Same. Same. Shame. Same.
I mean, where's the differentiation? Where lies the innovation and creativity in one more, franchised, outlet-ized, carbon-copied business? Hell, where's the fun?
Look at it from a business perspective. How does a business that's no different from the one up the road compete? On price. That's how.
"Buy from us," They announce, "We've got the best prices in town."
The competition lowers its price and customers make for the exits.
And therein lies the rub. It's those damn customers.
Or at least how businesses view customers.
With too many entrepreneurs, there's a perception that customers are an invariable variable in the buy/sell equation. And that means there exists a clearly-defined commercial relationship that ends the second after customers plop down their money.
Then, once the transaction is closed, business owners are off to the next customer, and the one after that.
Oh, of course, let's not forget the (supposedly) more sophisticated businesses that focus on customer retention, forever wondering how to get the same ones coming back for more.
See what I mean? The focus is on customers.
And that's backwards.
Way I see it, business shouldn't be focusing on getting customers. In fact, businesses shouldn't want customers at all.
I say, forget the customers. Why? Because customers only want good value for money.
And now you're thinking, Hang on, isn't that what business is about?
Nope. Sorry, but no.
Look at it this way, picture your business as a mega-band (the kind that plays music and fills up stadiums everywhere). Do you think your audience wants to hear you – and every other band – belt out You Light up my Life every night?
And if you lowered the price of your CDs (or MP3s or shows), would your audience, all of a sudden, be happy about having to listen to You Light up my Life all the time?
So, where am I going with all this?
Easy, think like a band and try to win what they're trying to win. And, it ain't customers either.
Rather, your band – er business – wants fans.
Fans create a buzz, fans are loyal, fans are viral. And…
Fans buy stuff. Lots of stuff
How does a business get fans?
Through originality, innovation, imagination and creativity. And purpose – clear, unfiltered purpose. In essence, you'll get fans by being true to your purpose and identity.
Just like successful bands that have an identifiable style and a defined voice, your businesses should say, "Here's what we're about. Here's what we believe in. Here's what we do. Here's what we offer that no one else does."
The result is that people who like what you're about will flock to you. Those that don't, won't.
And, that's the nice thing about having fans. You won't waste time focusing on people who'll never buy from you. Instead, you'll focus on your message and your offerings, and you'll communicate that to your fan-base, who will then spread the word.
You don't believe me? You want proof?
Look at Apple. Do you think their distinctive products and innovative spirit have created customers?
Or millions of fans?