Back in 2011, I wanted to become a guitarist. When you hold the guitar, you just look so much cooler. The chances of impressing a girl just go up by 257%
As someone who was even struggling to hold the guitar properly, my strategy was simple and smart. It was so genius that no one had thought of it before me.
– Learn 4 chords.
– Identify 10 popular songs that girls love and learn to play them.
– Impress the girls, get married to one, and have kids.
It took me 21 days to realize my stupidity. I was struggling to play the songs on my guitar and no one was getting impressed. The problem wasn’t the songs or the chords. The problem was at the core. The foundation of my guitaring was missing.
And that’s what most Marketers do. Without a strong foundation, they try to use meaningless tactics.
Is your business shrinking?
When a business is shrinking or stagnant, marketers worry. And their worry pushes them into a frenzy, where they start solving different types of problems.
‘Oh, we have a lead generation problem’
‘Oh, we have a conversation rate optimization problem’
‘Oh, it’s because we are not stuffing our blogs with SEO’.
Most of the time, these are the wrong problems. The actual problem is – ‘Your business has become a commodity.
What is a commodity business?
When was the last time you booked an airline ticket? Are you loyal to a particular airline? My guess is that you are not. The airline industry is full of commodities. There are no loyal fans. People go for the cheapest option.
The same is the case with internet service providers. And the same is true with telephone network carriers.
If you don’t have a loyal fan base, which will choose you above your competition (even if they have to pay a premium), then you have a brand.
Otherwise, what you have is a commodity.
“We provide the best quality”
When everything fails, marketers resort to statements like ‘We have the best quality. That’s our differentiator.’. Or they might say, ’Our Customer Care service is what differentiates us from the competitors.’ Give me a break.
This is a clear sign that your brand has become a commodity.
Reduce your prices and you will win
For a commodity business to win there is only one strategy. Keep your prices lower than the competitors.
“The problem with the race to the bottom is that you might win.” – Seth Godin.
Signs that your business has become a commodity
– Your lead pipeline has dried up
– You are struggling to answer the question – ‘How are you different from your competitors?’
– The only way to win a deal is by offering a lower price than your competition
– You don’t have loyal fans or customers
– You feel the pressure to squeeze out the maximum number of leads by using the best SEO and Performance Marketing practices
The future doesn’t look good for commodity brands
Commodity brands cannot charge a premium. As commodity brands are just like everyone else, they always face a serious threat from the competition. Also, Facebook ads and Instagram ads are not getting cheaper.
You can no longer stuff your content with keywords so that your SEO improves. Google is getting smarter by the day. And your conversion rate optimization strategies won’t take you far.
The only way out is to create a ‘core brand story’ and position your brand as the only obvious choice for a small group of people.
Image credits: Wesley Fryer (Creative Commons)
Most of us are not Coca-Cola or Mac Donalds or even Starbucks. We are not SalesForce or Facebook. We are not even AirBnb or Virgin Atlantic.
If you are below 100 employees, chances are that your audience lies in the bucket of ‘Early Innovators’ and ‘Early Adopters’.
If we are in agreement, then the strategy is simple.
Create a core brand story for your business that appeals to a small audience that consists of innovators and early adopters.
Examples of brands that are not commodities
While it’s easy to give examples of brands like Apple and Harley Davidson, I will refrain from doing that. A few brands that I look up to in India are Growthx, The Whole Truth, and Upekkha. These brands have been successfully able to avoid the trap of being a commodity and built a business around an audience.
Other examples that I like quoting often are Death Wish Coffee, ConvertKit, Tiny Little Businesses, and Everyone hates marketers.
How to convert a commodity into a brand?
I wish there was a step-by-step mechanism here. Don’t think there is.
But I can leave you with a few questions.
1. What’s the biggest asset of the brand?
2. What is the specific audience that you can serve?
3. What edge can you choose? Do you want to be the safest? The quickest? The smallest? The most sustainable? The most expensive?
(If you are trying to figure out your edge, you will find this story very helpful and also maybe inspiring. Link – Mike’s coffee shop story)
4. What is the bleeding neck problem that your customers are facing?
5. How can you make your product and your brand remarkable? How can you ensure that the early adopters of your product can spread the word about your brand to others?
6. How can you build trust with this audience?
The world gets noisier and cluttered by the day. The only way to survive and thrive is by becoming a brand. It’s time that we take a closer look at the foundation, without running behind shallow tactics.
As for my guitaring shenanigans
It never really worked out for me. I lacked the patience to sit down and build a solid foundation. It’s a mistake that I try to avoid in the other areas of my life.