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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

A personalized daily digital marketing checklist

(MARKETING NEWS) For all businesses, it is not only essential to develop an digital marketing strategy, but also necessary to utilize it in order to gain customers, and ultimately make a larger profit. This app can help.

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There is no doubt that starting your own business can be overwhelming. Along with promoting your business at events, meetings and in person, digital marketing strategies play a key role in the success of a company. For all businesses, it is not only essential to develop an online presence, but also necessary to utilize it in order to gain customers, and ultimately make a larger profit.

Simply creating a website and Facebook page for your business is not enough. However, software tools can help simplify digital marketing. ClearPath is a tool that organizes and creates tasks to optimize your online marketing. By creating to-do lists for you based on your online marketing strategy, you can focus on the areas of marketing that improve your business, all the while receiving useful tips and advice.

Using ClearPath is pretty straightforward and only requires one prerequisite. Before beginning, you must have a website.

If you are already lost, don’t panic. ClearPath can help you develop an online presence. Once your website is linked up, you get to choose the marketing channels that you would like to focus on. These include Search Engine Optimization (SEO), email, social, content, analytics, local, pay-per-click (PPC) and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Again, if you are lost, ClearPath is there to help you strategize.

After ClearPath analyzes your site, they start sending you customized tasks based they believe can improve your online marketing.

As you finish each task, you can simply check it off and it will disappear. New tasks will appear each day, and some may even repeat as they need to be updated.

Whether you are well-versed in digital marketing or not, staying updated with the newest ways to optimize your business online is a constant struggle. Tools like ClearPath give people a place to start. Although I don’t think it can supplement an active and experienced digital marketer, it is a tool that can help small businesses that cannot afford to add to their team yet. At the end of the day, it aims to save you time. And since time is money, your business will hopefully be more profitable.

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Business Marketing

Simple logo creation tools perfect for any freelancer

(MARKETING) You already know that even if you’re a solo writer, or lone developer, you need a brand in today’s online world. If you’re on a budget, check out these logo creation tools!

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Freelancing is a major part of the landscape nowadays. In that capacity, you’re running your own one-person business. As such, you need to brand that business. You know that, but let’s discuss the actionables.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “branding”, I immediately envision logos (which is super convenient because it brings me to my next point). You should absolutely have a logo as a freelancer, even if it’s simply just your name in a rad – but professional – font.

This will be useful on your website, social media, on invoices and beyond. You can even pop that bad boy into your email signature!

Ideally, you should hire a graphic designer that knows what they’re doing – you’ll get the best results. But if your budget is zero dollars, don’t you dare ask a professional for free work.

Instead, if you want to develop a logo for your personal freelancing brand on the cheap, check out five of our favorites below and see what works for you. The best part? These all have some free components.

  1. Picfont: Let me start with personal experience. My freelance logo (which is the cover photo of my Twitter), is literally just my name in a script-like font, and was made using Picfont. You can upload a blank background (or pick from fun royalty-free backgrounds) and choose from a variety of font options. Pick what you like, shape it out, download, and use. Easy
  2. Looka (formerly Logojoy) is also a great, easy-to-use online logo maker. You simply type in your company name/your name and go through a process of selecting colors and styles that you like. Looka then generates a selection of logos based on your choices. For an example, I created the logo for The Tidbit using Looka.
  3. Online Logo Maker: a wonderfully self-explanatory name. This logo maker is almost like a combination of Picfont and Logojoy. You can play around with different fonts, colors, and symbols to make a logo that fits you. This option also features high-quality Vector files.
  4. Canva is a great option because you can design a multitude of material (including flyers, presentations, graphs, etc.) If you’re planning to build a full-on portfolio with supplemental materials in addition to a logo, Canva may be your best bet as you can design everything to have a similar look – which is incredibly important for branding.
  5. DesignEvo: Their website describes it best, “DesignEvo is a free online logo maker with 8,000+ templates that anyone can use to bring to life a compelling, unique logo in minutes.” They have a drag and drop interface and hundreds of fonts.

Take some time to test drive these sites, play around with different logo types, and see which one gels best with you and your freelancing-self. Happy branding!

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Business Marketing

How to use offline marketing to your advantage in a digital world

(BUSINESS) We often become obsessed with new marketing strategies, favoring the internet over some traditional methods that continue to drive traffic timelessly.

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Everywhere you look, people want to talk about digital marketing. In fact, if you don’t have a digital marketing strategy in today’s business world, you’re not going to last long. But just because digital marketing is popular, don’t assume that offline marketing no longer yields value.

When used together, these strategies can produce significant returns.

“Some people will argue that traditional marketing is dead, but there are several benefits to including offline advertising in your overall marketing campaign,” sales expert Larry Myler admits. “Combining both offline and online campaigns can help boost your brand’s visibility, and help it stand out amongst competitors who may be busy flooding the digital space.”

How do you use offline marketing in a manner that’s both cost-effective and high in exposure? While your business will dictate how you should proceed, here are a few offline marketing methods that still return considerable value in today’s marketplace.

1. Yard signs

When most people think about yard signs, their minds immediately go to political signs that you see posted everywhere during campaign season. However, yard signs have a lot more utility and value beyond campaigning. They’re actually an extremely cost-effective form of offline advertising.

The great thing about yard signs is that you can print your own custom designs for just dollars and, when properly stored, they last for years. They’re also free to place, assuming you have access to property where it’s legal to advertise. This makes them a practical addition to a low-budget marketing campaign.

2. Billboards

The fact that you notice billboards when driving down an interstate or highway is a testament to the reality that other people are also being exposed to these valuable advertisements. If you’ve never considered implementing billboards into your marketing strategy, now’s a good time to think about it.

With billboard advertising, you have to be really careful with design, structure, and execution. “Considering we’re on the move when we read billboards, we don’t have a lot of time to take them in. Six seconds has been touted as the industry average for reading a billboard,” copywriter Paul Suggett explains. “So, around six words is all you should use to get the message across.”

3. Promotional giveaways

It’s the tangible nature of physical marketing that makes it so valuable. Yard signs and billboards are great, but make sure you’re also taking advantage of promotional giveaways as a way of getting something into the hands of your customers.

Promotional giveaways, no matter how simple, generally produce a healthy return on investment. They increase brand awareness and recall, while giving customers positive associations with your brand. (Who doesn’t love getting something for free?)

4. Local event sponsorships

One aspect of offline marketing businesses frequently forget about is local event sponsorships. These sponsorships are usually cost-effective and tend to offer great returns in terms of audience engagement.

Local event sponsorships can usually be found simply by checking the calendar of events in your city. Any time there’s a public event, farmer’s market, parade, sporting event, concert, or fundraiser, there’s an opportunity for you to get your name out there. Look for events where you feel like your target audience is most likely to attend.

Offline marketing is anything but dead.

If your goal is to stand out in a crowded marketplace where all your competitors are investing heavily in social media, SEO, PPC advertising, and blogging, then it’s certainly worth supplementing your existing digital strategy with traditional offline marketing methods that reach your audience at multiple touchpoints.

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