Have you ever been told that you shouldn’t try to make everybody love you? That you need to find your own tribe, stick with it and try ignoring everybody else? It’s simply impossible to please all of those in your environment and trying it is a recipe for being either exhausted all the time. Or becoming the blandest, meekest person ever. This isn’t only sound life advice, but very true for business situations too.
You – and your business – are not Nutella, don’t expect being universally loved.
Actually, if you think about it, even Nutella can be controversial. Loads of health bloggers tried to recreate healthier versions at home themselves. Green groups have targeted its mother company, Ferrero – as well as Unilever and Nestle – over the environmental effects of the palm oil trade, even though the company maintains its sources are safe and sustainable. And of course, there are plenty of people who don’t have a sweet tooth. If chocolate can be so divisive, how can you expect that your offer will be able to please anyone and everyone?
Even when your product is truly a commodity – substitutable with that of the competitors, like sugar, coffee, flour or oil – in most business cases differentiating yourself or targeting a specific segment will be a better business strategy than giving in to price wars and shrinking profits. A good example would be the flourishing craft beer market or the recent success of coffee delivery companies such as Pact or Grumpy Mule. They focus on an audience who values high-quality coffee, sustainable processes and the variety plus stories offered by bags coming from a different small farm every order. They picked a very well defined group of people with clear priorities when it comes to their coffee choices and do everything they can to serve those needs. They don’t try to sell to people who pick the name band coffee in their nearest supermarket, nor do they market to those who prefer to take their coffee outside or on the go. They don’t mind that for some people the price will be unjustified or the environmental considerations inconsequential.
By caring only about the opinions and demands of a certain group, they are able to inspire customer loyalty and charge higher than average prices.
Don’t try to be Nutella. Don’t be so bland that no one remembers or cares.
Here is a little exercise to help with this. Sometimes it’s easier to start thinking about what you don’t want as opposed what you do, and thinking sort of backwards can be a good starting point here too.
Be a good sport, and even if you think anyone could buy from you, take 5 minutes to think of a people who would definitely not be interested in your product. It’s okay to write down outliers or funny characters, there is always a little bit of truth in there too. What have you come up with?
Example: let’s say you are launching a high tech gym with a juice bar. Of course, in theory, anybody could want to work out there. The reality is though, that based on their style and workout preferences, there will be tons of uninterested people. The yogis who prefer traditional settings and wooden floors and no equipment. The hobby runners, content with running their 5 miles every night. The couch potatoes who never owned a gym membership and would waste the money anyway. Oldschool bodybuilders who prefer their basement gyms and tightly knit communities. Office workers with access to company gyms… I’ll let you continue.