Are You Boring?

by Shaun R Smith on April 5, 2011

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Years ago, I worked with a day spa client in New York City.  In Manhattan (this spa was in Soho), it’s hard to go more than a block without running into a shop that does nails, facials, and waxing.  The owner could never tell me why her spa was unique.  Why should people go there instead of the competitor literally around the corner?  Unfortunately, there was no good reason.  And the business owner was afraid and unsure how to achieve something more.  She was stuck with only her location and her prices to attract customers.

In his bestselling book (and my favorite marketing book) The Purple Cow, Seth Godin tells us that we must be remarkable or risk becoming irrelevant.  In the noisy and often hypercompetitive world in which we’re building our companies, being good at what we do often isn’t enough.

Being Remarkable

Being remarkable literally means that people (customers) are talking about you to others.  There is something about your business that they are able to remark on.  To be remarkable, you have to exceed your clients’ expectations.  In fact, you have to create wow moments for them.  When I first got my iPhone, the wow moment wasn’t when I could make a call – that was expected.  (In fact, I was disappointed with all the dropped call issues.)  The wow moment for me was when the music faded when a call came in.  It was unexpected – but smart and thoughtful and elegant.  And remarkable.  I told dozens of friends about it.

You Must Risk Something to be Remarkable

Creating wow moments, delivering beyond your customers expectations, mastering and dominating a niche requires creativity and courage.  That’s why most businesses are boring.  They might even deliver good products or services.  But they’re not creating raving fans.  Probably 90% of the time when I ask, “what makes your business unique?”, the answer is my customer service.  If 90% of your competitors are saying the same thing, either that’s not a point of uniqueness or you’d better be doing something amazingly different.

Sometimes wow moments are created without having anything to do with the core service.  Zappos does surprise overnight shipping (you place an order at 9pm and get it at 9am) to create a wow moment that turns customers into raving fans.  Or it might be how you run your business.  A Chicago realtor ditched his car and started bicycling to his showings.  It got him national press and aligns with his clients’ green values.  Or maybe you’re a litigation attorney who specializes just in aviation.

No matter what path you take to create a remarkable business, the fear is that you will scare off other people.  The aviation attorneys aren’t going to get auto cases.  And maybe that made them nervous when they first started down this niche.  “But there are way more auto cases than airplane cases, what are you thinking picking such a small niche.”  Yes – but there’s also a lot more competition in the auto space.  So instead of trying to be everything to everyone – they become remarkable and known as one of the players in their market.

The bottom line is, you will scare off some of the market.  But without being remarkable, you’ll never doing anything interesting enough to create raving fans.

Being Mediocre is Even More Dangerous

While taking a risk to create a more interesting and bold business or to take bold action with your customers might seem scary and expensive, the other option is to be mediocre.  And no one talks about companies that just meet their expectations.  If you’re in that game, you’ve got to compete or price, or sell handshake by handshake because the only thing unique becomes you.  That’s a tough way to build a business.

Photo by: Janet Hudson
The Purple Cow link is an Amazon Affiliate Link.


Joseph Howell April 6, 2011 at 11:17 am

thank you for your news letter it was good reading and informational. I will be sure to get the book you suggested The Purple Cow. Take care and I will be looking forward to the next issue.
Joseph Howell
Harlem Custom Pen

Ed Abel April 6, 2011 at 7:04 pm

Stand out by promising what you can deliver and then deliver more then you promised!

Great Points Shaun! It is easier to have raving fans market for you than marketing yourself! Create raving Fans!

Ed Abel

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