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Why your being the ‘Uber of’ or ‘Netflix of’ is bad for your business

(BUSINESS NEWS) Comparing your company to one of the big ones could actually hurt your business. Let’s dive into exactly why.

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Know Your Analog

An elevator pitch is a quick description of what your company does. It is so named as it should be short enough to be spat out at a moments notice and take no longer than it would take to ride between floors on an elevator. The goal of this micro-pitch isn’t to tell your listener everything about your company but instead to share just enough to get them to want to know more.

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There are several ways of doing this – which I discuss in this post – but the most effective method has to be the analog. Using a well-known analog to create an association between your napkin idea and an existing, well-known company is a convenient shorthand to say a lot without having to explain a lot: “Litr.ly (a made up company) is like Dribbble and Google docs for writers; allowing social feedback, editing, and collaborative creation.”

Know Your Audience

As a potential investor, team member or elevator passenger, I now know that like the design-focused portfolio site, Dribbble, Litr.ly combines sharing of creative work with a peer community. I also know that like Google Docs, Litr.ly allows real-time contribution and editing. As you can see, drawing an analog to your fledgling idea can be very helpful, particularly when talking to a sophisticated or relevant audience (My Mom would have no idea what either Dribbble nor Google Docs do). But it can be overused and is often done very lazily.

Don’t Overreach

Instead of truly understanding the company they are piggybacking on, many entrepreneurs simply pick something popular and force a tortured comparison to make their potential seem as great as the greats. The most overused and misunderstood example of this these days has to be, “We are the Uber of mattresses/musicians/photographers/music discovery/wedding planners/lawn mowers etc.”

If you’re not empowering the sharing economy nor on-demand services through technology, this analog is probably wrong.

Not everyone can nor should be the Tom’s Shoes, AirBnB nor Spotify of [fill in the blank]. Unless it’s true, it’s indolent and does more harm than good.

Don’t Hide Your Differentiation

Another problem with just picking the biggest name in tech or in your market is that everyone else is doing it too. If three-out-of-five music tech startups were “Facebook for Music,” which one of them is truly innovating? If you are lazy with your analog and others are too, you essentially hide your differentiation. The natural response after hearing the third, “we are the WordPress of potato farming,” is to tune out. Even without hearing your idea, your analog can draw an “I’ve heard this before…” response out of the gate.

Be Specific

Another common mistake is neglecting to specify which part of a product of a large company you aspire to be like.

Saying that you are the “Google of” anything leaves more questions than it answers because Google (or Alphabet) is a LOT of things: IoT (internet of things like Nest), search engine (Google.com), email (Gmail), social network (Wave or Plus), self-driving cars (Waymo), augmented reality (Glass), maps (Maps or Waze) or any number of other pies the $600 Billion giant has their fingers in.

Be specific and be relevant – if you’re referencing Wave, Glass or Plus, you might not be up-to-speed with those products’ current state of being (although Glass will be back albeit with a probable rebrand and redesign).

Know Multiple Facets of Your Comparison

On the topic of being up-to-speed, beware of hitching your wagon to a known company without understanding their business model, current news and/or revenue numbers. While you are trying to implant success in the mind of your audience, you could also be invoking unintended risk. You may be referencing a flattering characteristic, “It’s a universal marketplace, like Amazon on steroids,” but the wrong person could focus on the fact that Amazon uses a loss-leader strategy (losing money on an initial purchase) on many of its hardware products with the expectation that it can make it up by getting you hooked on content and toilet paper subscriptions. So be ready to draw a new analog if and when you need to.

Keep the Knowledge of Your analog Current

Equally, if you pick a parallel, you need to follow that company on anything and everything that you can to make sure that a good analog doesn’t go bad.

Companies get sued, tweet unsavory things, support unpopular causes (or presidential candidates), unjustly fire employees, lose value on their stock, or get acquired by the wrong company overnight.

You DON’T want to be “the Zenefits for…” the week after they were taken to court for malpractice, or the “Zirtual for…” after they laid off 400 employees without notice. Despite their ubiquity, now is probably the worst time to call yourself “Uber for…” after the CEO, Travis Kalanick stepped down following numerous misdeeds, including threatening to stalk Bay Area tech reporters. Some of these things can eventually blow over or be bounced back from but you’ll be caught with your pants down if the pantheon of success you are pointing to just became a laughing stock.

Look Beyond the Biggest Names For a Better Fit

If you are reaching outside of your market for an analog, be sure that the glove fits. The Lyft model works amazingly well for cars in ways that it might not in other verticals. While “Lyft for massage” startups, Zeel and Soothe, are both promising companies with great growth, inviting strangers into your house to put their hands on your half-clothed body is a greater risk than getting into a stranger’s GPS-tracked car. While it may be a good comparison, the person you are pitching may agree with Inc. Magazine’s Will Jacovitz who said on the Inc. Podcast, “The Uber-ization of anything but cars could get creepy.”

All of that negativity aside, picking a company role model for that quick elevator pitch is not all potential pitfalls.

Drawing an analog remains a great way to anchor your company’s potential in the mind of your audience and succinctly explains how you will dominate your market.

You just have to be sure to:

– Know your audience
– Not overreach
– Don’t be a “me too” company
– Specify which product/feature of a large company’s portfolio you are like
– Be ready to draw a new analog if and when appropriate
– Know the current news and past struggles of your analog company.
– Look beyond the biggest startups and companies for ones that are a better fit

So go and build the next great Warby Parker for dishware or AirBnB for bronies, just don’t let your description be the Titanic of analogs.

#youdoyou

Daniel Senyard is a writer, speaker, serial entrepreneur and founder of travel startup, Shep . Over the course of seven years in the startup trenches, Senyard has done it all (fundraising, strategy, product management, marketing, band booking, photo-copying etc.). Born in South African, Senyard has lived in Africa, America, Europe and India, and has a funny accent.

Business Marketing

Facebook Ads Manager MIGHT suck less this Black Friday

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Facebook needs to look again at one of their business features that seems necessary for people who want to advertise for black friday

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Facebook Ads Manager is an unavoidable beast for most business owners. It’s not as user friendly as Facebook likes to claim and sometimes it breaks down right before a major sales season. Fun times.

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday just around the corner, Facebook has launched a new status page for the Ads Manager platform. In a brief post to their business page, Facebook stated, “We know that having timely communication is important, especially when it comes to platform outages that affect your ability to manage campaigns on Ads Manager. So, we’re introducing the Ads Status Page to keep you informed about any disruptions to our services”

Ad buyers will now be able to visit the page to check for current issues on the platform. Facebook is providing an active status on Ad Creation/Editing, Ad Delivery, and Ad Reporting. So, next time you’re sitting at your desk fussing over a campaign glitch wondering, “What’s the problem here, me or Facebook?” you can pop on over to the status page and get your answer. And no, we can’t believe this didn’t already exist either.

This new status page is just one of many efforts Facebook is pursuing to quell advertisers increasingly public complaints about the performance of the Ads Manager platform. Facebook is planning to provide increased chat support for small business owners and “around the clock” support for larger advertisers during the holiday season. Facebook will also notify advertisers if there is a significant shift in key metrics such as cost per result, amount spent, impressions, reach, and results.

It’s no secret that Facebook has been getting some bad press as of late for their lack of transparency. The introduction of new tools, like the Ads Manager Status Page and the Brand Safety Controls which give advertisers more control over where their ads are run, are all part of Facebook’s attempts to be more transparent with both users and businesses.

Only time will tell if these changes will actually provide a significant benefit to advertisers or if we will continue to see huge technical difficulties during the holiday season.

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Business Marketing

Hear me out – Google Alerts but for Facebook Groups

(TECH NEWS) Groouply is a new App that helps you find out what people are saying about your business in facebook groups, even closed groups

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Mike Rubini, an Italian developer focused on a portfolio of software-as-a-service offerings, recently announced the launch of a new Facebook tool, Groouply.

(Note: Groouply is not to be confused with the educational forum Grouply, the community management app Grouply, or the now-defunct company Grouply, which developed social networking and online forums for small businesses.)

Groouply lets you monitor Facebook groups for keywords of your choosing. Depending on how it works, this could be a big deal. There are plenty of online trackers. In fact, there are two or three distinct industries built on collecting and processing the vast amounts of information we generate online. SEO, social media management, and big data processing have all developed into large industries with their own dedicated firms, tools, language, and (in big data’s case) terrifyingly powerful hardware.

But so far, Facebook Groups haven’t been a point of focus. You can check search engine results pages, Reddit, Hacker News, Twitter, and public FB posts. But automatically notifying a user about specific mentions in FB groups is something new. The developer claims the tool can even collect data from closed groups.

The potential applications for this are striking. You could get a sense of who’s talking about your company, and what they’re saying. You could make course corrections based on how you’re perceived. You could learn about potential markets you hadn’t considered yet. You could step in to discussions about your company to correct misconceptions. (You could also get dragged into some pretty unprofessional arguments, if you aren’t careful. It is Facebook, after all.)

You pick a group and a keyword, as well as the frequency of your email updates. Options shown in the demo video include daily and hourly. Once you’ve set up the account, the company takes 1-3 days to set you up on the back end, and then you’re good to go. At the current pricing, a $99/month account lets you track 10 keywords across 5 different groups.

Some folks have raised concerns. People have inquired about how the tool collects the data, wondering whether it’s compliant with Facebook’s terms of service. Others have expressed hesitation over the price. Paying $99/month for online marketing tools isn’t unheard of. The popular SEO research tool ahrefs charges $99/month for their basic package, and claims that their $179/month package is their most popular option.

But ahrefs offers a week-long trial for $7 so you can test-drive the service. They’re also running a robust, proven service. Your $99/month gets you 500 tracked keywords, updating weekly. It also gets you keyword reports and batch analysis, backlinking alerts, and 10,000 pages’ worth of site audits.

Groouply’s arrival has generated some buzz. When it launched two days ago, it became the #4 Product of the Day on the tech forum Product Hunt. Depending on what happens next, it could fill a much-needed niche in the social media marketing toolbox.

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Business Marketing

Accessibility to your website could make or break your brand

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Some companies are making sure their websites have more accessibility, and are creating design tools that help simplify the process for other designers.

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In August, The American Genius reported that Domino’s Pizza had petitioned the Supreme Court to hear a case it had lost in the Ninth Circuit Court, in which the court ruled that the pizza chain was required to improve the accessibility on their website to blind and visually impaired users.

Last month, SCOTUS declined to hear the case, maintaining the precedent that the standards set forth by the American Disabilities Act (ADA) apply not only to brick-and-mortar business locations, but also to websites.

The decision was a major win for disability rights advocates, who rightly pointed out that in the modern, internet-based age, being unable to access the same websites and apps that sighted people use would be a major impediment for people who are blind or visually impaired. Said Christopher Danielson of the National Federation of the Blind, “If businesses are allowed to say, ‘We do not have to make our websites accessible to blind people,’ that would be shutting blind people out of the economy in the 21st century.”

Although legislators have yet to set legal standards for website accessibility, the Domino’s case makes it clear that it’s time for businesses to start strategizing about making their websites accessible to all users.

Many companies worry that revamping websites for accessibility will be too costly, too difficult, or just too confusing given the lack of legal standards. However, some forward-thinking companies are going out of their way to not only make their websites more accessible, but to create design tools that could help simplify the process for other designers.

A great example is Stripe.

If you have an online business, you may already be using Stripe to receive payments. Designers Daryl Koopersmith and Wilson Miner take to the Stripe blog to detail their quest to find the perfect and most accessible color palette for Stripe products and sites.

Color plays into accessibility for visually impaired users because certain color contrasts are easier to see than others. But making Stripe more accessible wasn’t as simple as just picking paint swatches. Stripe wanted to increase accessibility while also staying true to the colors already associated with their brand.

Our perception of color is quite subjective; we often instinctively have strong opinions about which colors go well together and which clash. To make matters even more complicated, existing color models can be confusing because there is often a difference between how a computer mathematically categorizes a color and how our eyes perceive them.

Koopersmith and Miner give the example that if the human eye compares a blue and a yellow that have the same mathematical “lightness,” we will still perceive the yellow as the lighter color.

To achieve their goal, Koopersmith and Miner created new software that would adjust colors based on human perception and would generate “real-time feedback about accessibility.” In this way, the designers were able to adjust Stripe’s pre-existing brand colors to increase accessibility without losing the vibrancy and character of the original colors.

Not every company can afford to hire innovative designers like Koopersmith and Miner to create new tools every time there is an accessibility challenge. But Stripe’s project shows gives us reason to be optimistic that improving accessibility will become steadily more … well … accessible!

Disabilities rights advocates and designers can work synergistically to set standards for accessibility and create comprehensive tools to achieve those standards. In our highly visual age, it’s important to ensure that no one is left behind because of a visual impairment.

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