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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

Use the ‘Blemish Effect’ to skyrocket your sales

(MARKETING) The Blemish Effect dictates that small, adjacent flaws in a product can make it that much more interesting—is perfection out?

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Presenting a product or service in its most immaculate, polished state has been the strategy for virtually all organizations, and overselling items with known flaws is a practice as old as time. According to marketing researchers, however, this approach may not be the only way to achieve optimal results due to something known as the “Blemish Effect.”

The Blemish Effect isn’t quite the inverse of the perfectionist product pitch; rather, it builds on the theory that small problems with a product or service can actually throw into relief its good qualities. For example, a small scratch on the back of an otherwise pristine iPhone might draw one’s eye to the glossy finish, while an objectively perfect housing might not be appreciated in the same way.

The same goes for mildly bad press or a customer’s pros and cons list. If someone has absolutely no complaints or desires for whatever you’re marketing, the end result can look flat and lacking in nuance. Having the slightest bit of longing associated with an aspect (or lack thereof) of your business means that you have room to grow, which can be tantalizing for the eager consumer.

A Stanford study indicates that small doses of mildly negative information may actually strengthen a consumer’s positive impression of a product or service. Interesting.

Another beneficial aspect of the Blemish Effect is that it helps consumers focus their negativity. “Too good to be true” often means exactly that, and we’re eager to criticize where possible; if your product or service has a noticeable flaw which doesn’t harm the item’s use, your audience might settle for lamenting the minor flaw and favoring the rest of the product rather than looking for problems which don’t exist.

This concept also applies to expectation management. Absent an obvious blemish, it can be all to easy for consumers to envision your product or service on an unattainable level.

When they’re invariably disappointed that their unrealistic expectations weren’t fulfilled, your reputation might take a hit, or consumers might lose interest after the initial wave.

The takeaway is that consumers trust transparency, so in describing your offering, tossing in a negative boosts the perception that you’re being honest and transparent, so a graphic artist could note that while their skills are superior and their pricing reasonable, they take their time with intricate projects. The time expectation is a potentially negative aspect of their service, but expressing anything negative improves sales as it builds trust.

It should be noted that the Blemish Effect applies to minor impairments in cosmetic or adjacent qualities, not in the product or service itself. Delivering an item which is inherently flawed won’t make anyone happy.

In an age where less truly is more, the Blemish Effect stands to dictate a new wave of honesty in marketing.

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Business Marketing

7 ways Instagram Stories get people pumped about your brand

(MARKETING) Instagram stories are widely used, so why shouldn’t marketers get in on the Insta-story action?

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Instagram Stories long ago surpassed Snapchat at it’s photo-sharing joy, and has found to be a great place to build brand awareness and build your customer base.

Here are a few ways that you can use stories to get people excited about your brand, products, and service.

1. Share the story of your business

Showcase the creation of a product or service, or share something (legal and fun) that your team is working on. These behind the scenes productions humanize your brand and can really get people excited about it. Check out what Union Fare does!

2. Preview live broadcasts

Are you doing a Facebook Live or WebEx demonstration? Use Instagram Stories to tease and generate some excitement or pull attendees from one social media platform to the other.

3. Showcase your stuff in action

Whether it’s demonstrating an application, showing off a recipe, or showcasing an outfit, you can use stories to show what the end result of a product is and help them generate ideas on how to use that stuff! Because Instagram Live can be done spontaneously, you can show authentic, non-scripted demonstrations easily.

4. Brag time

When you support a brand, you get excited that you are a part of their wins. Share relevant milestones (subscriber counts, new products, new revenue, new contracts, new products, etc.) with your base. This helps build connection with your base.

5. Countdowns and giveaways

You can use stories to facilitate ways to get people excited about upcoming giveaways or new launches. Unlike static marketing, the use of countdowns can really get people emotionally excited and build anticipation for new products or services. You could also use stories to give special sales or unique giveaways that give a more “exclusive” feeling.

6. “Takeovers” from influencers or partnerships

If you are working with a promoter or influencer, you can have them generate content to send them over to you to use their voice to target your audience. The influencer can send you pictures and videos that you upload yourself, rather than handing over your account username or password (like with Snapchat). This is a great way to work with someone who already has a following that can help you expand your service or product reach.

7. Create unique content

Odds are, especially for smaller businesses and new entrepreneurs, you don’t have a lot of time to invest in production value for other advertising. Instagram Stories with the use of stickers, paintbrush, and text can be a great place for raw, but still polished content that has a one of a kind feel. Familiarize yourself with the tools, and don’t be afraid to get artsy.

Make Instagram work for you

Instagram is constantly adding new features, so make sure you stay tuned for updates and play around with those features often. For example – Instagram stories can rewind or being hashtagged. Or use the eraser brush to do slow teases or product reveals.

Given that users can now bookmark content as well, you can create demonstrations or examples and give your audience a quick reference to your content. Get learning, check out stories, and start building those unique, intimate, and creative engagements with your consumers.

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Business Marketing

Half of all Instagram users buy immediately after seeing an ad

(MARKETING) If you’re advertising on Instagram and yielding no results, read on – it’s a gold mine for *some* types of brands.

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If you’ve been on Instagram you’ve likely fallen victim to the algorithm’s knack for showing you advertisements for something that seems exactly suited to your tastes. Or, someone you follow on the app tags their post with the name of the brands that make up their cute outfit and you decide to see what else they might offer. I’ve ended up with more than one pair of sneakers this way.

Instagram’s popularity and effectiveness have made it a marketing powerhouse. Over 130 million people look at product tags on the app each month.

Recently, Facebook commissioned a study asking users to explain what their interaction with companies and brands on Instagram was like. A whopping 66% of people said that the used Instagram to interact directly with brands — and 54% of users said they purchased something immediately after seeing an ad in their Instagram feed. Ads that are in the “stories” feature, independent of users’ feeds are especially effective.

After it was acquired by Facebook, Instagram has grown to account for over 19% of the tech-giant’s advertising spending — nearly double what it was in 2018.

Facebook is planning on continuing to capitalize on Instagram. They announced that soon users won’t need to navigate out of their feed to the retailer’s website purchase items, but rather have the ability to buy things in-app.

Instagram will take a cut of these in-app purchases and partner with PayPal to process payments, adding a new revenue stream to the growing platform.

As part of expanding its foray into shopping, Instagram is also partnering with its most popular influencers.

These people will be able to directly sell the products that their sponsors are offering through their accounts, rather than direct them to their sponsor’s account. At the beginning, only major accounts belonging to celebs like Kylie Jenner or Gigi Hadid will have this option, but it seems like after its initial launch more sellers will be to take advantage of the feature.

So, be prepared to have even more sneakers in your future, friends. It looks like those Instagram ads are going to get even more powerful.

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