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Entrepreneur

Be an Original

By Tom Irmen

Few things are more exciting to an impassioned entrepreneur than to observe a new product or service winning acceptance in the marketplace, unless it’s their own product or service. I guess you could place just about anything Apple touches into this camp.

It’s equally interesting to watch the long line of want-to-be’s that inevitably come on the scene soon after a successful launch in an attempt to capture their share of this new market for themselves. Despite their attempts, however, few, if any, of them seem to gain traction over their competitor, and most fall by the wayside almost as quickly as they came onto the marketplace.

It is my belief that the primary reason for the failure of the want-to-be’s is their choice to ignore, or perhaps their inability to understand, the consumer. The marketplace is much more sophisticated and discerning than many want-to-be entrepreneurs may imagine. Merely duplicating a product or service on the surface, without duplicating or enhancing its true substance, is a recipe for failure. Just look at the number of iPhone want-to-be’s that have been released since Apple’s successful launch that had consumers camped out overnight to become the coveted first owners of this sensational new phone that has taken the cellular industry by storm. Even Apple’s choice of carrier, AT&T, which left most new iPhone users holding their noses, couldn’t derail the iPhone.

Want-to-be’s are an interesting breed. Their efforts are directed, or should I say misdirected, at duplicating the success of a competitor through sheer imitation. What they neglect to do is take the necessary time required to research their marketplace, or to differentiate their product or service, offering a product or service experience superior to the market leader. Their fundamental error is in believing that their poor attempt at imitating the market leader will result in capturing market share or displacing a competitor who has a superior product or service.

The “secret sauce” that want-to-be’s inevitably attempt to replicate is the superficial qualities of the market leader’s product or service rather than its true intrinsic value. To compete with Superman, they would purchase blue tights and sew a large red “S” on their chest, but I would not recommend leaping from tall buildings in a single bound.

True success doesn’t result from imitating your competitors, but rather from offering a product or service that can be differentiated in the marketplace with clear, distinct advantages to the consumer. A visit to the supermarket will prove my point. Check out A.1. Steak Sauce. It’s been around since 1824. Competitors imitate the packing, the bottle and label, but A.1. continues to enjoy a 54% market share nationally. Do you think the secret sauce is inside the bottle?

Success is not as elusive as you might imagine if you choose to become an original and not an imitator. Provide the marketplace with a product or service that is clearly differentiated from your competitor, that offers superior features and benefits, and customers will be camping out on your doorstep.

Take the path less traveled. Be an original.

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