The little guy. Guys like you and me…can win! Here’s How!
In this article I’m going to give you 7 ways to grow your business and grow it fast…With No Budget, No Money, Starting on Day One…and this is just part one of the series!
People ask me this all the time.
“How can I compete against companies with millions of dollars that have been around forever?”
“How can I compete when I’m selling the same product they are and they’ve been around forever and have the market?”
“How do I build my clientele/business from scratch?”
Easier than you might think…
Fact One: It’s a big world and it doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in it to build your business up…and quickly.
Think about it:
Wal Mart CAN’T sell everyone because like everything, because there is a “counter culture” to every idea, product and service.
A lot of people hate Wal Mart because they are so big and drive other competitors out of business…so they refuse to shop there. Others simply refuse to pay “cheap for cheap.” They’ll go somewhere else, spend more money and feel better about it. This will always be the case.
Example: Chem Lawn would come and spray my lawn year after year to kill weeds. Maybe it helped. I was never convinced. (How would you know? What would you measure it against???) Then a “little guy” company came to the door knocking saying that Chem Lawn used toxins that could harm my cats and that the treatment they applied was “natural,” whatever that means, effective, and was safe for my cats and kids.
So, I switched. I’m not an environmentalist (though lately I confess I have been thinking of converting), but I am a pragmatist. I liked my cats and kids…and I wanted to see if something else would be effective on my stubborn yard.
It didn’t seem all that impressive either. But like I said, you’d never know.
So Chem Lawn was big but then came the environmental movement and one swath they cut into was lawn services. Chem Lawn vs. Small Local Company
What is the first strategy?
So you have the company that had the monopoly and you had the little guy coming with a sling ready to take out Goliath…or at least a part of Goliath…
It was fool proof. There was no other competition for The Little Guy. Chem Lawn was NOT competition. They were using toxins to kill weeds. The Little Guy, created a product to appeal to a specific group of people: Environmentalists and Pet Lovers…and kid lovers…
Chem Lawn might have worked but when The Little Guy put the fear of god in you that your kids or pets might be killed by the poisons…it was hard to not switch….downright impossible.
Fear of loss? You bet. Doing what”s best for the collective? You Bet.
The Little Guy didn’t try and BE Chem Lawn. They used a COMPLETELY different approach. They put AS MUCH ATTENTION on things unrelated to the yard (the environment and your pet) as they did the yard itself.
Totally ingenious. They created a new concept from an old idea. They not only got rid of weeds (or so they said they would), they’d help protect your kids, cats and the world… all for $252 per year.
How can you beat that?
Doing all that, you probably wouldn’t need to go to church or anything….
So you give it a go.
The salesperson could pick any or all themes to tell a story about. Chem Lawn could just kill weeds.
The competitor grew and grew quickly…
So The Little Guy branded themselves on the safety of being able to walk barefoot (you, your kids, your pets) on your grass. Nothing about weeds in the “branding.” Just a few cool stories to tell….
Remember when you were a kid?
Your Mom brought home a bag of popcorn seeds. Kids nowadays have never seen popcorn seeds of course…they’d be shocked to know “where popcorn comes from.”
Mom would put cooking oil in the bottom of a big soup pan…cover it completely then drop the seeds in. Just so that no seeds were on top of each other. In 10 minutes you had popcorn and it was good. Better than anything you’ve had in the last 20 years.
In a small pan next to the big soup pan, you melted the butter that you’d pour over the popcorn when it was done. Mmmmmmmmmm.
The popcorn was a regular treat because it was very cheap. For about 15 cents we could have a snack for 5 kids and Mom. It was perfect for us and everyone who lived around us.
Then came Jiffy Pop.
They screwed everything up.
They ran counter culture.
Jiffy Pop was the brand that came along and had a cheap pie pan bottom with a “bag” that would essentially inflate with popcorn as the popcorn popped. The oil was already in the container. All you had to do was turn on the stove and shake the seeds… it even came with a handle.
What was Jiffy Pop really selling?
It tasted dry, saltless and the “butter” was yukky.
It was about a dollar per thingy. (What is the container that you cook the popcorn in and it stays in called? I only got Jiffy Pop once when I was a kid, so I never learned it!!)
And that was a lot of money.
Didn’t cut it in my family, but it did for most of the country and they carved out a HUGE niche in the popcorn industry.
They weren’t trying to sell to my family. They had a higher income demographic and it worked….incredibly well!
And just when they thought it was safe…the microwave became common place in homes and various microwave popcorn brands came along and you could pop bags of popcorn in your microwave….even faster.
Worst than Jiffy Pop which wasn’t even close to Mom’s.
Didn’t matter. They weren’t selling popcorn per se. They were selling SPEED and CONVENIENCE. And the price of their product was also about a dollar and as wild as that was…maybe 5 times the cost of Mom’s…it caught on fast and put million’s of Mom’s out of business.
Today Mom’s can’t make popcorn any more.
So it isn’t just about the popcorn but about being able to watch the movie WHILE the popcorn cooks in the microwave.
No greasy pans to clean up. (the soup pan, the butter pan and the cake pan you poured the popcorn in when it was done cooking…)
KEY POINT: So it was all easier. The microwave brands didn’t taste all that good either but they had ALL THE OTHER perks. Speed, convenience, no clean up. Watch the movie while it cooks.
If you had the money…you bought it. (We didn’t…in this case thankfully!)
So what about you?
Whatever you sell, you have competition…sort of.
It doesn’t mean as much as you might think…to have “competition.” The world is so big and there are so many “types” of people with differing wants and desires that it’s pretty easy to find a way to sell and market your product or service if you come at it from a different angle.
STRATEGY TWO: You give people extra perks and benefits…stories and feelings…that they wouldn’t have without you.
It’s a big world.
But…if you have a cool story…you can be David against Goliath.
For hundreds of years women’s underwear was sold in department stores and cheap in places like K-Mart.
A counter culture of “underwear companies” emerged that sold ero*tic lingerie. Frederick’s of Hollywood is one that comes to mind. And they did (and still do) a lot of business…
But then…lingerie for sophisticated women came along.
The secret behind Victoria’s Secret’s smash-hit advertising?
An ingenious brand that has carved a huge niche in the industry.
Selling to women of almost all demographics, the idea of sophistication, comfort and sexiness all in a package that is very expensive and raises the ire of customers just to hear about the idea of buying similar items at the department store.
What would you rather sell?
Underwear… or lingerie for sophisticated women?
KEY STRATEGY: The language you use to describe your product changes the perception of the product in the mind of the buyer.
And what woman is going to want to buy underwear when sophisticated women buy Victoria’s Secret?
KEY STRATEGY: Frame your service, self or product correctly so that the end user knows you UNDERSTAND their wants, needs and desires…and everyone wins. Get the right story and you can breakout in any market.
I was reading a new issue of Skeptic magazine a few months ago (I subscribe) and I saw an ad that was selling a program on how agnostics could “argue” with Christians more effectively.
And I thought, “what a stupid product.” Why would anyone want to argue with a Christian? (Then part of me wanted to go to why not go argue with Jews or Buddhists or Hindu…but I stopped myself short of engaging…)
You don’t argue religion and “win.” You argue religion and lose.
But that’s logic. And then it dawned on me that the reason they advertise is because they are making money…the product is selling in part because it is running counter culture.
That alone means it’s going to have ONE STORY to brand itself.
What about you?
KEY STRATEGY: What are you counter culture to?
What or who are you running counter to??
Think about it for a minute.
There is an answer. I want to know WHAT IT IS.
And that of course is just one question.
The next is what is your story…or…what are your stories?
Does your favorite mutual fund invest in environmentally helpful companies or does it invest in the vice (cigarettes, alcohol, gambling) companies. (There are funds that invest in either area and both types of funds are quite large….and run counter to each other of course!)
In almost everything I do, I look at two things.
1) What really works here and prove it.
2) What are they doing (whoever they is) that is deficient and inferior that could easily be blasted away by what works, or, works much better.
Those are two more places to find stories.
Want even more strategies?
Here’s a couple more:
KEY STRATEGY: Ask yourself: What do people like about you? What do they comment on about you?
One of the things people write to me is, “you’re real.”
In other words, they know there is a very kind person that cuts sharply through the B.S.
And that is an odd combination of traits that creates a complex personality and someone INTERESTING to do business with. Because at our core…that’s who we ALL are.
We all want to be kind…and treated kindly…and…we want to cut through the gunk to find out what works in life and business so we can cut the learning curve down and accelerate quickly.
More stories there.
So what about you?
Where do you differ from Wal Mart or (gulp) Mom’s popcorn? or Fredericks and the department store…??
The world’s a big place. You have a niche. You have to carve it out. You’ll do that by running counter…leading the leading edge…having great stories and seeing how what you do …can also do other things at the same time just like the upstart lawn service… that appeal to your clients.
I believe that people want to see you as “real.” That means they want a consistent product. Real has integrity. It’s predictable. Real has personality. Real can be complex.
Look at someone like John Lennon. In the last 15 years of his life he rarely smiled. To call him “happy” would likely have been a mistake. But he wrote of love and peace and all kinds of admirable things. He was a complex person and that is part of what helped him generate such a likeable persona for someone who must have been tough to be around on certain days.
That real-ness…inner complexity…is attractive to people…because we all feel that way inside. We think X and do Y instead. We desperately want A but settle for B. That’s you, that’s me and that’s John Lennon.
KEY STRATEGY: Are you trying to wear a white suit or are you real?
Where people are led astray is when they buy the product that is not real. There the customer, the client is ultimately let down. They were gullible enough to fall for the white suit coat and pants. Those “brands” don’t usually last long once you are outside of the arena of churches.
By the way, I can’t stand that word “brand.” I’ve heard it over and over and very few people “get” how to brand. I shake my head and wonder at most of the books I’ve read about branding. They are simply WRONG. That stuff doesn’t work for the little guy. (Or most of the guys that got big either!)
But let’s use the word “brand” anyway because it’s convenient until we figure out a better one!
As you “build” your name, create awareness for you, realize that you are indeed branding yourself along with your product or service.
People will do business with you because you have a “reputation for X.” That could be integrity or positive thinking or a good attitude or a bad attitude or anything. But the reason they hired you is BECAUSE of that reputation. And when people hire you BECAUSE of your REPUTATION, YOU ARE A BRAND and HAVE SUCCESSFULLY BRANDED YOURSELF.
…or at least you’ve begun to successfully brand yourself.
Branding is in large part telling great stories that captivate listeners and then providing a good experience that validates those stories.
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