Recently, on a Kenya Airways flight I picked interest in the inflight magazine (Msafiri – a Swahili word which means traveler). I was really enjoying the magazine though the flight was a short one and I knew I would have to part with it in a short while. However, something unique happened that day. I heard the pilot at one point saying that we could each go with a copy of this magazine. It was of course one of those rare treats, as I have had numerous KQ flights without this gesture. On arrival, and before leaving the plane, I thought it wise to reconfirm this from one of the hostesses – less I could earn myself one of those terrible names when seen carrying along the magazine without authority. The positive confirmation made me smile with the joy that I could read the entire magazine at my own time at home. Don’t mind me, to-date I haven’t read everything but I just loved the idea of owning this. I like reading and discovering, and Msafiri magazine has quite some good things often.
I came across something about Miles Davis – Kind of Blue album. Now, I like music but in a very selective way! I’m not the kind of person you would find nodding his head vigorously on the streets enjoying some music or anything that resembles music. Far from it! So don’t expect me to comment much about music or this specific album. Rather, I think there is a great lesson for entrepreneurs in that piece. The lesson is this statement that says “don’t play what’s there; play what is not there.” I would like to share this with entrepreneurs today. It’s about being different. It’s about being unique. Candidly, if you are an entrepreneur and you like to win in the world of entrepreneurship, then you need to get your mind ready to beat competition by being unique and different. Many outstanding enterprises you see today arose from newness, from uniqueness. It is stated that difference plus advantage equals differentiated advantage. I mean differentiation should be part of both your strategy and tactics.
So, let me now proceed to my top 7 lessons on differentiation for entrepreneurs.
- Differentiation gives your enterprise competitive advantage to stay ahead of the pack. As an entrepreneur, you need to play what is not there by creating and maintaining competitive advantage through your unique selling proposition (USP). You can be irreplaceable in the short and medium term by means of differentiation and USP. By the time copy cats come along you are miles away and you will actually be moving onto new things. Do you get what I mean? You can keep competitors running after you, as it’s not always easy to adapt to what you do. As a leader in your pack of enterprises you will be different and preferred in many cases. Being the first gives you an edge that is not easy to overcome. The fact that there could be no substitute enhances your brand loyalty. Now, if you don’t see the benefits of these for your enterprise, then you need to pinch yourself!
- An entrepreneur must understand what makes or can make his enterprise unique. By the way, some people and enterprises simply want to be different for the sake of being different. They hardly understand what makes them unique and why or how they should leverage on this difference in a relevant way. They hardly put value and importance on their uniqueness. My dear entrepreneur, you should be different in a way that is relevant to the market and your clients or customers. Don’t be different just for the sake. You might shout louder but with a lot of nonsense in that shout. Rather, understand and even track your differentiation. Ok?
- The ever changing and never ending needs of human beings is an opportunity for the creative and innovative. Human beings have been created with insatiable needs and appetite. If there was no limitation of means the world would be very chaotically changing. Desires and needs of this generation differ from the previous generation and that of the next generation. When you give a man a good smart phone, then he wants that phone to have a torch or some app that can help him locate his lost car keys, and blah blah blah! When you give a man a robust car then he needs one that can park itself. What a man likes today he will dislike and cast aside in two years’ time. The ever changing world means you can solve some problems and add some value. Your enterprise can benefit from the value in being rare, unique and different. Take note please. I’m not telling you to create some artificial rarity and make yourself too big for nothing. Creative innovation, marketing and intelligence will enable you to leverage on changing human needs and build a brand for your enterprise. Creativity is the new competitive advantage of today. Don’t you agree with me? Come on!
- You can base your price on value because you stand alone. The entrepreneurship world is a world of stiff competition and many enterprises have become fossils because of this. I guess you don’t like your enterprise to become history so fast. Do you? Price is one of the means of these fights. Price is the last differential of the similar. However, a smart entrepreneur can decide to operate in the non-price competition arena. Why do you think this is possible? Simply plan to win by being different and unique, and not with low price. Come on Mr. Entrepreneur, base your price on value because you stand alone, and in this way you will not be engaging in price wars anyhow. Operate on a higher realm of competition. Fly with the eagles but if you choose to scratch with the turkey that is up to you. Period!
- Differentiation requires effort and you have to work at it. It does not come cheap. Another top lesson about differentiation is the fact that differentiation requires effort. There are some lazy entrepreneurs who come up with very lazy approaches to differentiation that add no value to their businesses. Some think they can simply dream their ways into serious differentiation for their enterprises. It’s not that fast, Mr. Entrepreneur. This is worsened by the fact that many of us are wired and trained to seek out the normal. Don’t plan to fit in – rather labor not to fit in. Methodically work at improving your product and service differentiation. Do you understand?
- You spend less in marketing by being unique. Do you know that when you position yourself as a leader, expert, best choice or an authority through uniqueness and differentiation, people will start coming to you instead of you moving up and down looking for them? Your uniqueness will limit your prospecting for business. Instead, it attracts people to you. By the time that your enterprise attains good customer recognition, loyalty and shared values, you are well on your way to a very successful business through differentiation. Isn’t this pretty good my dear? This means that you don’t need to spend so much in marketing because customer recognition, loyalty and shared values are already working day and night in your favour.
- If you must copy – better me smart at it and let people know you also use a part of your brain at least. Now, I want to make some provision for some entrepreneurs who still cannot resist the temptation of copying what other people do. It is not a crime but the problem is that you will simply be following others. This means that you have to work pretty hard to achieve some milestones. Additionally, some people copy in a very brainless way. These are the kind of people who are easy caught in plagiarism. They can be equated to students the teachers get leaning over to read answers from a neighbor. It’s not tasty at all. This is also an important and top lesson on differentiation. I mean – the basics of differentiation, because you have copied but are simply trying to be a bit smart about it. Never be so hopeless by copying someone’s business name, business model, corporate colours, vision and mission etc. You will certainly come out as simply daft. Be smart about your copying.
I think it’s time to run now. As I conclude, let me say this. You will create fans and advocates for your enterprise if you create and deliver value in a unique and ever evolving way. You will have more fun in business this way, rather than struggling as a pure copy-cat. The above are my top lessons on business differentiation and uniqueness. These lessons will also guide you on your way in building a strong brand for your enterprise.
Have a fantabulous week,
The Wise Entrepreneur