Now that you’ve figured out what you do, what problem you solve, and that you think there is a market for it, you make money only when
someone chooses you and pays you for your product or service. Sounds obvious enough. So why do most individuals and companies get it wrong? Because they don’t give their customers a clear reason to choose them first.
Competition is a fascinating thing. When companies and individuals compete, rather than differentiating their offerings, they become more similar. Company A decides it will stay open late. Company B stays open late.
Company A offers bigger. Company B offers bigger. And the process goes on and on until it is very difficult to tell Company A from Company B at all.
For example, what’s the difference between Verizon and AT&T in terms of their pricing plans and minutes? The real difference is the perception of reception. I found humor in the irony of buying an AT&T M-Cell to boost reception in my Manhattan apartment. I bought an AT&T product built to solve the problem of its first product. It didn’t, and for the record AT&T sucks in New York.
What’s the difference between the Wynn Hotel in Vegas and the Bellagio? The Venetian Hotel and the new Aria? There may be subtle differences, of course, but with room rates being similar, the differences are not obvious, and the reason to choose one over the other is not clear. This is how businesses become commodities. I believe Las Vegas hotels are commodities, and that most purchases are made
on price rather than preference. This is a very bad place to be. So why should someone choose you over your competition? What makes you different?
Are you the obvious choice? Are you preferred? If you don’t have a clear difference, you better have a low price and be prepared to live off low margins. Luxury brands are good studies of preference. Luxury goods are purchased by individuals who can select from many different brands, with price rarely being the deciding factor. Here is how it works. All humans need purpose and identity. It is important to each of us to brand ourselves, even if we are doing it unconsciously. We want to stand out or fit in, depending on our personality. What we buy helps us define who we are.
If you’ve ever bought an automatic watch, you know they keep crap time. They need constant winding or swinging of your arm and lots of TLC. But no one buys a Rolex because it keeps better time than a Timex. We buy a Rolex because it tells the world we are successful enough to buy
a Rolex. We drive Bentleys not because the ride is so much better than a Benz, but because it tells the world who we are and where we fit in the social food chain. We stay at the Plaza, eat at Le Cirque and put on our Salvatore Ferragamo shoes because it defines our personal brands to the world.
Apple is one of those brands that helps define our personal identity. Despite the fact that the new iPhone’s antenna doesn’t work, they are selling like hotcakes. Why? Because associating yourself with the Apple brand makes you cool. Cool people use Apple products, business people use BlackBerrys, and geeks use Droids. What does a Nokia phone say about you? What about a Motorola? Not much.
So why should someone choose you, or your product or service? If the boss chooses you for a promotion, does it make him look good? If people choose your product or service, how does it help define who they are?
Does it fill a need? Is it simple and obvious? Does it make them look smart? Perception is reality. Is the iPhone really any better than a Droid? Probably not. Do we buy a Ferrari so we can race around the streets? Not likely. But we choose to associate ourselves with brands that help define us. The power of association is not to be ignored. Politicians want to associate themselves with celebrities and rock stars come election time.
It’s good for their image, and especially helpful with certain demographics. We want to be perceived as smart and successful. Leading brands help us do that. Typically, the best position you can have in the mind of your customer or potential customer is the “leader.” Leadership is safe. It means more people choose you, and if more people choose you, you’re the safe choice. Most consumers are averse to risk; they want to know what
the crowd is doing. Others want to do the opposite. For mobile professionals you need to make a decision: Are you the Armani, Banana Republic, or Gap of DJs? Your logo, website, photos, business cards, availability and pricing should reflect your position in the market. And your clients need to fit your positioning. Can you be the leader? For example, can you be New York?s #1 DJ? Maybe not. How about The Upper West Side’s? Maybe. Try and carve out a niche that you can lead. You need to know who you are and what you do in order to make sure you position yourself correctly for your customers. That is the best way to become the first and obvious choice in your market.
Clear takeaway: Write down a reason why I should choose you, and it better not be price!
For example, “Manhattan Lighting and Sound”
tells me what you do, but “Manhattan Lighting and Sound,New York’s Leading Lighting and Sound Services” gives me a reason to use you: trust. “Dark Knight DJ”Voted #1 by NYC Voice Magazine!” gives me a reason to use you. Write down what you do and give me a reason why I should choose you. MB
Filed Under: Issue #140
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