What Makes you Different?

Posted by: Jason Zacher on Tuesday, October 13, 2015
What makes you different? What makes your company stand out from the rest? This is something we need to grapple with as we all undertake 2016 planning and budgeting (which, I might add, gets started earlier and earlier each year, like Christmas decorations in stores). The Wall Street Journal wrote an article that made me think about this topic on Monday morning. The article was about the struggles for light beer makers. For decades, they differentiated themselves with the silliness of their ads: talking dogs, trees growing bottles of beer, and sophomoric jokes. Seth Godin wrote in We Are All Weird: “The defining idea of the twentieth century, more than any other, was mass.” That was great news if you were Budweiser, Miller, or a host of other giant beer companies. Then craft beer came along and “one size fits all” didn’t fit any longer. Consumers weren’t subject to a few styles (or few dozen that were basically the same). The big companies are struggling. In the past 8 years, Bud Light has seen a 13 percent decline and Miller Lite has seen a 27 percent decline. (Coors Light sales are up 4 percent.) The small craft beer market is exploding as younger consumers, who have grown up with virtually infinite choices for everything, love products made in smaller batches with love and craft. But back to your business. Are you Miller Lite, or are you Lagunitas Brewing Company, in which Heineken just bought a $400 million stake? Chances are, if you’re one of the 82 percent of small business who are members of the Greenville Chamber, you’re Lagunitas. (Now just sit back and wait for that $400 million buyout, right?) Every industry is inundated with choice these days. You’re not just competing with other companies in Greenville, but you’re competing with anyone with an e-commerce Web page. Google easily takes care of the comparison shopping. Even if you had a successful 2015, don’t expect to repeat that. The economy has changed forever. You need to ask yourself: What makes you different? What is your niche? Be honest and answer those questions. Listen to your customers. Build on those answers.

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