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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

Bite-sized retail: Macy’s plans to move out of malls

(BUSINESS MARKETING) While Macy’s shares have recently climbed, the department store chain is making a change in regards to big retail shopping malls.

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Macy's retail storefront, which may look different as they scale to smaller stores.

I was recently listening to a podcast on Barstool Sports, and was surprised to hear that their presenting sponsor was Macy’s. This struck me as odd considering the demographic for the show is women in their twenties to thirties, and Macy’s typically doesn’t cater to that crowd. Furthermore, department retail stores are becoming a bit antiquated as is.

The sponsorship made more sense once I learned that Macy’s is restructuring their operation, and now allowing their brand to go the way of the ghost. They feel that while malls will remain in operation, only the best (AKA the malls with the most foot traffic) will stand the test of changes in the shopping experience.

As we’ve seen a gigantic rise this year in online shopping, stores like Macy’s and JC Penney are working hard to keep themselves afloat. There is so much changing in brick and mortar retail that major shifts need to be made.

So, what is Macy’s proposing to do?

The upscale department store chain is going to be testing smaller stores in locations outside of major shopping malls. Bloomingdale’s stores will be doing the same. “We continue to believe that the best malls in the country will thrive,” CEO Jeff Gennette told CNBC analysts. “However, we also know that Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s have high potential [off]-mall and in smaller formats.”

While the pandemic assuredly plays a role in this, the need for change came even before the hit in March. Macy’s had announced in February their plans to close 125 stores in the next three years. This is in conjunction with Macy’s expansion of Macy’s Backstage, which offers more affordable options.

Gennette also stated that while those original plans are still in place, Macy’s has been closely monitoring the competition in the event that they need to adjust the store closure timeline. At the end of the second quarter, Macy’s had 771 stores, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury.

Last week, Macy’s shares climbed 3 percent, after the retailer reported a more narrow loss than originally expected, along with stronger sales due to an uptick in their online business. So they’re already doing well in that regard. But will smaller stores be the change they need to survive?

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Business Marketing

Why you must nix MLM experience from your resume

(BUSINESS MARKETING) MLMs prey on people without much choice, but once you try to switch to something more stable, don’t use the MLM as experience.

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Discussing including MLM experience on a resume.

MLM experience… Is it worth keeping on your resume?

Are you or someone you know looking for a job after a stint in an MLM? Well, first off, congratulations for pursuing a real job that will provide a steady salary! But I also know that transition can be hard. The job market is already tight and if you don’t have much other work experience on your resume, is it worth trying to leverage your MLM experience?

The short answer? Heck no.

As Ask the Manager puts it, there’s a “strong stigma against [MLMs],” meaning your work experience might very well put a bad taste in the mouth of anyone looking through resumes. And looking past the sketchy products many offer, when nearly half of people in MLMs lose money and another quarter barely break even, it sure doesn’t paint you in a good light to be involved.

(Not to mention, many who do turn a profit only do so by recruiting more people, not actually by selling many products.)

“But I wouldn’t say I worked for an MLM,” you or your friend might say, “I was a small business owner!”

It’s a common selling point for MLMs, that often throw around pseudo-feminist feel good slang like “Boss Babe” or a “Momtrepreneur,” to tell women joining that they’re now business women! Except, as you might have guessed, that’s not actually the case, unless by “Boss Babe” you mean “Babe Who Goes Bankrupt or Tries to Bankrupt Her Friends.”

A more accurate title for the job you did at an MLM would be Sales Rep, because you have no stake in the creation of the product, or setting the prices, or any of the myriad of tasks that a real entrepreneur has to face.

Okay, that doesn’t sound nearly as impressive as “small business owner.” And I know it’s tempting to talk up your experience on a resume, but that can fall apart pretty quickly if you can’t actually speak to actual entrepreneur experience. It makes you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about…which is also not a good look for the job hunt.

That said… Depending on your situation, it might be difficult to leave any potential work experience off your resume. I get it. MLMs often target people who don’t have options for other work opportunities – and it’s possible you’re one of the unlucky ones who doesn’t have much else to put on paper.

In this case, you’ll want to do it carefully. Use the sales representative title (or something similar) and, if you’re like the roughly 50% of people who lose money from MLMs, highlight your soft skills. Did you do cold calls? Tailor events to the people who would be attending? Get creative, just make sure to do it within reason.

It’s not ideal to use your MLM experience on a resume, but sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. Still, congratulations to you, or anyone you know, who has decided to pursue something that will actually help pay the bills.

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Business Marketing

This smart card manages employee spending with ease

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Clever credit cards make it easier for companies to set spending policies and help alleviate expense problems for both them and their employees.

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Spendesk showing off its company credit cards.

Company credit cards are a wonderful solution to managing business expenses. They work almost exactly like debit cards, which we all know how to use, am I right? It is the twenty-first century after all. Simply swipe, dip, or tap, and a transaction is complete.

However, keeping up with invoices and receipts is a nightmare. I know I’ve had my fair share of hunting down wrinkled pieces of paper after organizing work events. Filling out endless expense reports is tedious. Plus, the back and forth communication with the finance team to justify purchases can cause a headache on both ends.

Company credit cards make it easier for companies to keep track of who’s spending money and how much. However, they aren’t able to see final numbers until expense reports are submitted. This makes monitoring spending a challenge. Also, reviewing all the paperwork to reimburse employees is time-consuming.

But Spendesk is here to combat those downsides! This all-in-one corporate expense and spend management service provides a promising alternative to internal management. The French startup “combines spend approvals, company cards, and automated accounting into one refreshingly easy spend management solution.”

Their clever company cards are what companies and employees have all been waiting for! With increasing remote workforces, this new form of payment comes at just the right moment to help companies simplify their expenditures.

These smart cards remove limitations regular company cards have today. Spendesk’s employee debit cards offer companies options to monitor budgets, customize settings, and set specific authorizations. For instance, companies can set predefined budgets and spending category limitations on flights, hotels, restaurants, etc. Then they don’t have to worry about an employee taking advantage of their card by booking a first-class flight or eating at a high-end steakhouse.

All transactions are tracked in real time so finance and accounting can see purchases right as they happen. Increasing visibility is important, especially when your employee is working remotely.

And for employees, this new form of payment is more convenient and easier on the pocket. “These are smart employee company cards with built-in spending policies. Employees can pay for business expenses when they need to without ever having to spend their own money,” the company demonstrated in a company video.

Not having to dip into your checking account is a plus in my book! And for remote employees who just need to make a single purchase, Spendesk has single-use virtual debit cards, too.

Now, that’s a smart card!

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