I just started reading “Zero To One” by Silicon Valley innovator, entrepreneur and prominent venture capitalist, Peter Thiel. He presents a unique way of thinking as a key ingredient for startup success. Startups have to generate new ideas and act on them rapidly to grow and expand their operations. That’s really the only way they can survive. They have to think out of the box and react quickly to take advantage of perceived market trends. Because of their small size, they can be nimble and test/document/respond to their ideas and deliver them in market with tight turnaround timeframes.
But that’s not an easy feat when you have to deal with that pesky little problem called competition. Yes, it fuels the creative flames but sometimes it’s hard not to get caught up in the rat race. As a small business owner, you need to make sure your brand stands out from the rest in a positive way otherwise you’ll never get the recognition you need to prosper.
Competition is healthy to a point. It drives us to excel but it can divert our attention from developing new ways of becoming even better. Think of it this way. You make giglets and compete with three other giglet manufacturers. It’s all-out war between your companies because you are all struggling to be the number one giglet manufacturer in the world, all focused on being more attractive to prospective buyers, using new colors, shapes and sizes to differentiate your offerings from those of your foes, tearing down the competition at every turn, thinking, hoping and praying these methods will advance your sales goals.
But you’re all missing the critical element of innovation. Changing small facets of your product to make it look a little nicer isn’t transformational. It’s imitative and largely ineffective in the grand scheme of things. Focusing all your efforts on competing with others in your space is a waste of time, effort and resources and will only get you marginal results until another giglet manufacturer comes along and figures out how to take the show to the next level. Then POOF! Your giglets are history.
Instead, figure out what your brand brings to the table, what your value proposition is and how you can make your offering more relevant to the lives of your targeted customers. Do something BRAND NEW and go from ZERO to ONE. That type of thinking and execution results in positive impacts to your bottom line. Get out of the way of your competition. Let them spend their precious time battling for that top spot. You focus energy, time and effort on what makes your offering inherently great or how you can GET TO GREAT.
Your path to the top will then be within reach.
Customer is king…or in my case, queen. =)
But words are cheap. You need to create an experience so a customer truly feels that patronizing your product offering is worth their time and money. You need to make them feel special and valued to inspire loyalty.
I’m going to tell you a little story. A few years ago, I asked Hubby to buy me a wok. As always, he did plenty of research to make sure I had the best and biggest, large enough to stir-fry myself if I so chose. I’m exaggerating a slight bit but my youngest can fit into it comfortably. Yeah, he’s four…and no, I haven’t coated him in soy sauce or anything like that. But it takes up two burners!!!!!
Anyway, I was so excited when my wok finally arrived. But that’s not all. It came with a set of hand-crafted bamboo cooking tools and a cookbook as well. Everything was wrapped nicely and there were printed instructions about how to prepare my wok for the first use. It was a truly PRICELESS experience.
Guess what? The Wok Shop in San Francisco made me a fan for life.
Customer loyalty is critical for success in business. You may be intrigued by my experience with The Wok Shop so maybe you’ll go to their website and check out their products. Perhaps you’ll make a purchase and tell a friend about your positive experience. Word of mouth can have an incredible impact on your sales. Conversely, it can really destroy your business if you don’t place the appropriate amount of focus on your customers. That leads to a lot of angry Tweets and you definitely don’t want those floating around in cyberspace.
I got a new pair of KG Kurt Geiger sandals today. They’re HOT…like if you touch them, your finger will sizzle HOT.
Kurt Geiger Sandals
I tried them on, teetered around the kitchen and wondered if my current heroine Avery might sport them. Although anyone who knows me would imagine that ALL heroines I create would share my insatiable love for dangerously high heels, I’m still not sure about Avery. So to avoid tearing out my hair over that very disconcerting fact, I’m going to redirect my attention to fashion…yes, fashion in Silicon Valley.
Oxymoron? Not entirely.
Just as an aside, if I were a guy in Silicon Valley, I’d never sport the Zuckerberg ensemble. EVER. I’m not crunchy, I don’t particularly care for hoodies and if sandals don’t have a heel, they aren’t generally welcome in my closet.
I’m excited to report that there are several female execs in the technology hotbed that sport veeery exclusive designer wares. Just ask Entrepreneur magazine. They’ll tell you all about Silicon Valley’s best dressed. Even Vanity Fair weighed in. Think Ruzwana Bashir, Marissa Mayer, Juliet De Baubigny and Alison Pincus. Not only are they entrepreneurs but they’ve got mad style.
My husband does a lot of work with VCs and tells me my vision of glamour in the Valley is somewhat flawed. Sure there are exceptions, but they’re few and far between. Whatever. I’ll keep my perspective. I knew it couldn’t all be about khakis and button downs.
So, hell YES, I’d sport these sandals in Palo Alto. But I’ll opt to stay out of San Francisco unless I’m driving. Way too hilly. =)