When hearing the word commodity, people often think of things like oil, grains, or coffee. However, they don’t think of themselves or their businesses in the same way. Not realizing you’re a commodity is the first step into obscurity, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The definition of commodity below shows the full scope of the problem.
Investopedia describes a commodity this way:
A commodity is a basic good used in commerce that is interchangeable with other goods of the same type. Commodities are most often used as inputs in the production of other goods or services. The quality of a given commodity may differ slightly, but it is essentially uniform across producers.
In essence, any business can be a commodity if there’s enough competition.
When there are many options in the market with little to no differentiation between services, customers view all vendors as the same. The perceived value of your service becomes marginalized by customers who lack the education to tell the difference. When customers don’t know the difference, they tend to default to price as the only different variable between options. This is a shitty position to be in and one that many small businesses find themselves in daily.
Is Your Small Business a Unicorn or Oatmeal?
Unicorns are unique and stand out from all other creatures. Oatmeal, on the other hand, is bland, boring, and tasteless. Sure, you can put some cinnamon and sugar on it, and that’s how most businesses try to define their uniqueness. However, the oatmeal is still oatmeal, no matter how much you dress it up.
Every small business is as unique as the founder and team that supports them, so why do we fall into the trap of becoming another “me too” business? Here are 3 areas to consider.
1. Lack of Vision
When a company has a lack of vision, they tend to be aimless in their pursuit. Many small businesses start because the owner had the talent and skillset to create a business that would support them. There wasn’t a thought about where the company was going because most days are just about providing service and surviving the ups and downs of entrepreneurial life.
If you’re interested, you can read a few thoughts on vision by clicking this link.
2. Ease of Entry into the Marketplace
Ease of Entry refers to how easy it is for new competition to enter the marketplace. Got a computer and access to the internet? Great, now you’re a web designer or marketer. Have a truck and are handy with tools? Excellent, now you’re a roofer, plumber, contractor, or handyman. Luckily the trades have a little bit of protection through licensing and certification. On the digital side, it’s sort of like the wild west, anything goes.
3. Lack of Differentiation
The subject was touched on above, but when you offer the same services, advertise, and sell in the same way as your competition, you won’t stand out in the crowd. Your customer has to have a clear view of what makes you better than your competitor. Years of experience, award-winning, and excellent service aren’t the clear differentiators you might think. Your customers expect these types of promises, and frankly, the bear (RAWR!) minimum.
Want 7 ways to differentiate your small business, check out this article
What’s that saying, “Once you realize you have a problem, only then can you begin to fix it?” Mark Twain also said:
It Ain’t What You Don’t Know That Gets You Into Trouble. It’s What You Know for Sure That Just Ain’t So
Take some time today to look at the 3 areas above. Do you have a vision, is there a lower small barrier of entry into your industry, and are you differentiating your services in a way that customers can telly exactly why you’re different? If you see this is a problem and want to innovate to stand out from the crowd, we’d be happy to help!