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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

Reddit put on their big kid pants to attract ad dollars

(MARKETING) If your company is scared to engage Reddit, they’re trying to button up for you, and it’s worth a second look. Maybe.

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While Reddit remains to be one of those strange sites where advertisers still aren’t sure if they want to use it (whether it’s because Reddit is a little confusing, or companies are turned off by it’s well known strange subcultures and tendency to be a magnet for a lot of uh, weirdness – we don’t know.)

Reddit has been working to improve their ad platform over the past year, mostly recently taking pixel from tracking only a single conversion event to eight conversation windows with an improved attribution window of 1, 7, or 28 days.

This builds on top of the cost-per-click buying that was added as a feature last month.

Reddit putting on big boy pants for marketing is a big deal. In case you missed it – Reddit generates over 1.2 billion visits a month – and remains one of the most popular sites on the internet. It’s the sixth most popular site in the United States, and it’s not afraid to boast a moniker of being the “Internet’s Front Page.”

Marketing on Reddit has some pitfalls of course – if you just go in blindly and without care, you wont’ get anywhere – the platform is not friendly to self-promotion and flagrant marketing.

But if take the time to generate valuable content, the ability to share that content to a very specific audience in the right subreddit. Marketing effectively will still require getting your material to the right place, but there’s a lot of opportunity for marketers to use both the uniqueness of the forum, combined with these new marketing tools, to reach this vast sea of Redditors.

If you don’t know about Reddit – here’s some good places to get started:

Short summary – Reddit should be somewhere you could consider advertising. It has an easy potential for some modest returns, but has a lot of possibility if you take the time and leverage the tool. So go forward, and subreddit smartly, marketers.

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Business Marketing

A more environmentally sensitive Pantone color of the year

(MARKETING) Why is Pantone’s coral color causing a ruckus? Marketing is just marketing, right? Maybe not…

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Every year Pantone declares the Color of the Year and for 2019, the institute declared Living Coral to be the “it” shade calling it “an animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge.” And it totally is. Imagine bright red orange swimming in a sea of crystal blue water.

Pantone’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman even goes so far as saying it that Living Coral was what “consumers craved” and that it incites “human interaction and social connection” which might be a stretch. It is just a color after all.

However, some found this messaging to be anything but convivial and well, off-color.

Jack Railton-Woodcock and Huei Yin Wong, partners at Jack and Huei, a Melbourne-based design agency, took umbrage with this decision and for good reason.

Their native Australia has front-row seats to the dying of the Great Barrier Reef and for them, coral is anything but lively. If anything, it’s on life support.

To call attention to the tone-deaf decision, the duo preemptively christened Bleached Coral as the Color of the Year 2020.

Touche.

The duo furthered their burn, saying, “It’s the responsibility of all of us, creative or otherwise, to find creative solutions to big problems, and right now there aren’t many problems facing humanity that are bigger than climate change.”

Oof, way to pull back the curtain, guys.

As much of a buzzkill as this pair might be, they’re not wrong, and they bring up the larger question of social responsibility in marketing.

But it’s just marketing, right?

Wrong. The very root of marketing is aspirational. We see ads for luxury cars, we imagine ourselves behind the wheel and believe that maybe we can get there. We see beauty products that promise flawless ageless skin and maybe we decide to take better care of our skin. We see Living Coral and we’re blinded to the reality that the coral just might be a thing of the past.

Yes, Pantone’s Color of the Year is one of those fun end-of-year things we in marketing get excited about, but when you’re living in a world where climate change is our reality and we see it in unnatural weather patterns and the dying off of one of our greatest natural treasures, it’s time to take pause. We can do better.

These days it’s hard to please everybody. Try as we might to make everything for everyone, if we’re going to attempt to talk about a unifying the human race through color, we sure as hell shouldn’t choose a color that reminds us all that our environment is in rough shape and it’s largely humanity’s fault. Bleached Coral isn’t the color we need, but right now, it’s the color we deserve.

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Business Marketing

Video marketing is here to stay – 5 ways to change your SEO strategy

(MARKETING) Video marketing now constitutes the majority of all web traffic – is your brand getting lost in the shuffle?

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Video marketing has grown as a content strategy over the past several years, as the explosion in mobile devices and fast mobile internet has made it more feasible to stream videos on the fly. And considering more than three-quarters of all business using video marketing are seeing results, it’s unlikely that video marketing is a trend going away anytime soon.

If you’re a search marketer, video content isn’t a trend you can ignore. You need to adapt your SEO strategy if you’re going to thrive in this new market and capitalize on the new opportunities that video provides.

Videos as Part of SEO

How exactly do videos impact your campaign?

  • Platform-specific optimization. Google gets all the attention in SEO, but it isn’t the only search engine you can optimize for. Video-centric platforms, like YouTube, function as independent algorithms with dedicated audiences. That represents an additional ranking opportunity, and the chance to get your content in front of new audiences.
  • Onsite value. Videos are also powerful ways to improve the authority and value of your onsite pages. Integrating a video into your how-to guide, for example, can make visitors spend more time on your pages and engage with your content in more meaningful ways. Accordingly, high-quality videos could increase your onsite authority.
  • Brand reputation and links. Good videos have the potential to quickly improve your reputation as a content creator, making you visible to more people and making people appreciate your content more. That means you’ll have opportunities with more external publishers, and you could potentially attract more links to your domain.

How to Adapt Your Strategy

So what steps should the average search marketer take to adapt their SEO strategy for the future of video marketing?

  1. Create more videos. For starters, you can spend more time creating and publishing video content as part of your overall content marketing strategy. Including them onsite, as part of your articles and guides, can bolster your onsite strategy, while including them offsite can help you optimize your offsite presence. Learning to create high-quality videos isn’t as hard as it seems; you don’t need expensive equipment, nor do you need much experience (though it does help). As long as you’re focused on creating content that your viewers want to see and are converting your videos to the appropriate file formats, you should stand to gain from the efforts.
  2. Leverage multiple mediums of content. Your videos don’t have to exist exclusively in video form. In fact, if you transform your videos into multiple different formats, you can benefit from it in multiple contexts. For example, publishing your video content, then including a written transcript and a downloadable audio file can expose you to multiple audiences simultaneously, while giving Google more content to crawl.
  3. Learn to title and tag your videos appropriately. Depending on where you publish your videos, you’ll likely have the opportunity to label them with a title, a brief description, and possibly categories and tags. These are incredibly valuable for helping algorithms “understand” what your video is about, and an opportunity to captivate your audience at the same time. For example, a catchy or compelling video title will attract more clicks when you’re featured in search results, and including the right tags can ensure you come up for more searches.
  4. Take advantage of YouTube’s algorithm. Don’t optimize for YouTube the same way you’d optimize for Google (though there are some similarities to consider). Instead, learn how YouTube’s algorithm works and use strategies to capitalize on its functionality. For example, you can tweak your content to get more likes and comments or optimize your channel to get more subscribers. You can also look at how your competitors are tagging and categorizing their similar videos, and either mimic or complement those strategies.
  5. Foster a video-centric community. Finally, take the time to build and nurture a video-centric community. Engage with the people who are commenting on your videos, and reach out to people on social media to see what they think of your video content. Doing this motivates people to continue following your channel, and will attract more people to your brand at the same time. Best of all, earning more regular subscribers and viewers will increase your authority as it’s perceived by algorithms like those from Google and YouTube search.

You don’t have to include videos as part of your content creation strategy to be successful in SEO, but it certainly has the potential to improve your performance. At the very least, you should be aware of your competitors making use of videos in their strategies, and adjust your tactics to reflect the nature of this new era.

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