Why You Can Be Only 20% Better Than Your Competition And Still Make A Decent Living
Have you ever pushed at a door from the side where the hinges are?
It’s hard to do. Try it and you'll find that the door opens eventually, but it takes a lot of energy just open a door.
That's why it's easier to push where the other side of the door, where the handle is.
I got this 'pushing at the hinges' experience only last December writing the sales page for our new Brainy Lounge community.
My brain was noodling about why it will be special, but I simply couldn't figure it out.
By chance, my friend Ian sent me a link to a competitor's business community so I could see what they did.
So, I joined up on a free trial and like an undercover marketing ninja, I sussed out what I could do better.
I realised that the owners' replies to posts to their members weren't very thoughtful.
There wasn’t an in-depth answer.
There wasn’t a video recording breaking down someone’s sales page or pulling apart their business idea.
It was just a line.
Given the price this community charged their members, I thought: “I can do better than that!”
So I did.
I made the new community about ‘thoughtful feedback’ and guaranteed to give detailed answers by text, audio or video.
And 'Hey Presto', I had my uniqueness.
I now knew that I was no longer pushing a door open on the hinge side.
All I did was turn on my computer, look at what the competition was doing, and I had an idea that was 20% better… at least.
There’s a lot in this lesson of doing something that’s only 20% better.
(And it’s not a lazy man's quick win to marketing.)
There is some street-smart thinking behind it.
And that's what I want to talk to you about today: how making a product or service only 20% better is all you need to do.
You don't have to re-invent the wheel or disrupt a market place.
You can do something 20% better and have a good life doing so.
To paint a picture of why this is a good idea, let’s talk about tea.
(Yes I did say tea).
I know two small business owners who live nearby and they ran a successful tea business until recently.
They sold expensive, special boxes of flavoured teas imported from the USA.
Their business thrived, even though their tea is only a bit better than their competitors'.
They would admit that it wasn’t 10 times better than the competition, nor did it ‘disrupt’ the tea market.
But they did admit that it’s only 20% better than the competition.
Yet, their business boomed for years with a product that was only 20% better in spite of intense competition.
Yes, they focused on telling people about the benefits of their great-tasting, 20%-better tea.
They relied on a few clients who trusted them to deliver all the time.
They imported the tea, sold it to the UK market, through events mostly.
You'd expect that a big competitor would drown them out (and there are tonnes of them).
But they weren't drowned out at all.
In fact, there is a big upside of only being 20% better: you don’t have to risk much.
You don’t have to spend hours experimenting with a new product to see it fails (like The Segway).
You don’t have to risk seeking high investment in creating a new product.
Instead, you can take an existing product or service, find out where it’s weak and make it just 20% better.
In fact, you just need a laptop to start.
You can open up a laptop, surf the Google-sphere this morning, find a product or service that you could do better with and - hey presto - you’re off!
Okay, it won’t make you Elon Musk or Tesla.
But if you’re looking to get a business up to pay the bills and bring in a steady income, start looking at what exists and do it 20% better.
It’s also where most businesses start: they do something that’s a bit better than what went before.
Most iterate and don't make huge innovations.
You can always make your product 10 or 20 or 100 times better another day.
Yes, you might not get the attention of Forbes magazine, but not all of us are in business to get famous.
Some of us have other things going on like families and friends, Netflix and the desire not to work 24/7.
And this 20% business model works just nicely for this.
If you’ve read The Four Hour Work Week, this 20% idea is in there: find a product that exists, make it a little better and putting your brand on it.
If you want to invent an earth-shattering product, be careful.
It’s high risk, it often involves a lot of product development and time to get people to believe in it.
And most people who come up with a new invention, often do the hard work for the competition.
That's right: there are always competitors waiting in the wings to look at the mistakes of a new idea and to learn from them.
Take the iPod, for example.
Apple took the lessons from the first line of MP3 players that were rather clunky.
Apple stood on their shoulders and produced something far more beautiful.
Yet, the iPod wouldn't have looked so elegant without its competition inventing first.
The first to an idea isn’t always the first to the gold at the end of the rainbow.
Sometime’s it’s the 2nd or 3rd business.
Yes, it’s Darwinian: people evolve on what’s got before.
So, it’s up to you if you want to be vastly different, x10 different or 20% different.
But remember, a new invention often involves oodles of money to create.
And when it’s launched, it’s very hard to stop people imitating and improving what you’ve done, even if there are patents in place.
To reduce the odds of competitors imitating your product or service, you need to think smartly.
You need to go to town and dramatise what is the one thing that makes your product different.
Yes, it might not be much of a difference, but we must make a big deal out of that small difference.
We must shine a big spotlight on it to make it feel different.
Look at chocolate bars, for example.
They're all similar.
Yet, Cadbury's talks about joy.
Aero talks about its bubbles.
Kit Kat talks about its snappable, wafer fingers.
In truth, there's little difference between them apart from a small change of ingredients, design and their brand.
But it's up to you to dramatise even the smallest of difference.
It's up to you to hold up the spotlight to increase the chance of customers considering you.
Yes, every business does something different, however small.
And it's up to you to choose what that difference is.
Then, turn that wee 20% difference into a Netflix-style drama when you market your product.
Even if it's only 20% better.
It's easier to start a business this way.
It's less risky and maybe you'll sleep a bit better.
What's more, it’s unlikely that you’ll feel like growing your business is like pushing the doors from the hinge side.
Well, that’s that for this week.
Before you go, do check out the new Brainy Lounge community below.
I'd say it's way more than 20% better than the competition ;0)