How different should you be?

No I’m not going to talk about being original and all that, I still think originality is overrated. But you definitely need to stand out among the competition right? Then you need to be different. How different? Well it really depends on what you’re doing. So maybe I can cook up some example to give you some idea on how to differentiate yourself.

1. Emphasize on one core value

Zappos started in 1999 by selling shoes online, nothing original here. What they do differently is that they concentrate on one aspect: Customer Service. This is not just talk because they actually re-direct their marketing budgets towards delivering exceptional customer service with a great company culture. They go so far as to (as quoted from sitepoint):

  • Encouraging customers to order as many products as they wanted in order to “try them on,” then offering free return shipping for a full 365 days
  • Only listing products on the site when stock was in their own warehouse (which actually lowered sales by 25% at a time when the company was still in the red)
  • Deciding to run their warehouse operation 24/7 to deliver super-fast turnaround on orders, despite it being an inefficient way to manage fulfillment
  • Encouraging customers to call them about nearly everything. Their call center takes 5,000 calls per day, and employees work independent of scripts, quotas, or call time limits. The longest call to date has been four hours. Zappos views the phone experience as a branding device, and speaks to virtually every customer at least once.
  • Deciding to invest in “surprise” (free) upgrades to overnight shipping for most customers. This means that most orders are delivered within 24 hours, despite the web site indicating it will take 2-5 business days.
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This is not the usual company decision since that does cost a lot of money, but Zappos believe in customer service and stick to it until the end. Good thing they’re right about it, now they’re making about  $US1 Billion per year, yeah.. Billion.

Bonus: Here’s a little bit of Zappos customer service magic to apply to your business.

2. Shrink your market to a niche

Box and Dropbox seems like the same thing but both goes very differently in terms of company direction. Dropbox target consumer market while Box target business market. Box decided to refocus to the corporate world in 2009 and challenge Microsoft Sharepoint and other giants directly, though the founder Levie wasn’t worried at all about this. This redirection do them wonders as they go and partner with P&G converting about 18.000 of their employee to users. P&G is one of 100.000 businesses that use nowadays. Other notable partnerships is with Sony Ericsson, Intel, and HP.

The move made sense because now they don’t have to compete with Dropbox, which is already the king in the consumer market making $240 million revenue with 50 million users. Sucks to be their competitor.

3. Localize

Nobody knows the local market better than the local people. So if you are local, you have the upper hand. I would love to use as an example but that’s such a shameless plug. So let’s go beyond digital for this example and take a look at these 2 conventional business: Dagadu and Kek Pisang Villa.

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Dagadu sells merchandise that represents Yogyakarta, very good for souvenirs and the locals also buy it because it’s close to their culture. A massive hit selling about 2000 to even 5000 t-shirts monthly in holiday season. They also have mugs, prints, and other stuffs raking in about $100.000 in revenue per month.

Another example is Kek Pisang Vila, a self-proclaimed local delicacies (Yeah I didn’t know they can do that, but apparently you can self-proclaimed local delicacies). The food wasn’t exactly a local food, the founder Selvia Nurlia just made it so because there’s no famous local delicacies in Batam. That’s such a brilliant idea! Selvia now run this with 85 employees making 2000 pan @ Rp. 3500 per pan, raking in about $US 20.000 per month.

Have your startup made that much profit yet?

Ok moving on to the digital world we have, which is in China, as quoted from Techcrunch

China has a long history of matchmaking so just going online, finding someone you like and messaging them isn’t going to appeal to a lot of the population. The ones who are comfortable with doing that will just use social networks. For those who aren’t, there are already an established off-line alternative

And so the founder Song Li decided to localize it by making

A Web site that’s free to join and free to search, with revenues provided by a 350-person strong call center of real-life matchmakers

A combination of online and offline that suits the China market better. If you’re not living in China, you wouldn’t have known about this. Localization is important, it’s not just about the language. If only the language is the issue than Google would have won in China a long time ago.

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So that’s 3 ways for you to differentiate yourself. What other ways can you do or have you did in the past. Would love to hear it.

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Aria Rajasa

Aria Rajasa Masna is a passionate businessman with an knack for design, casual fashion and also digital industry. Currently positioned as the head honcho of and Doing his best challenging the impossible on the daily basis.

  • Satya

    nice post!

  • Aria Rajasa

    wah om satya mampir, i feel honored! :D

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