This post originally appeared at Open Forum.In the past, brilliant marketing could sell even the most ordinary product or service. But today, competition is so fierce that you actually have to create something remarkable in order to succeed, says marketing guru Seth Godin in his book, Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable.
Godin describes remarkable as “something worth talking about. Worth noticing. Exceptional. New. Interesting.”
According to Godin, it’s “the era of the cow” and no longer acceptable to even be “very good” since that’s an “everyday occurrence and hardly worth mentioning.”
Here are his most valuable tips about what differentiates a remarkable product from a mediocre one:
1. Create demand by making your product an outlier. Wal-Mart, Neiman Marcus, Motel 6 and the Four Seasons have all experienced tremendous growth and success because they’re outliers.
What does this mean? It means the product is either “super-fast or super-slow, very exclusive or very cheap, very big or very small.”
Godin says to “go for the edges. Challenge yourself and your team to describe what those edges are, and then test which edge is most likely to deliver the marketing and financial results you seek.”
2. Playing it safe is the riskiest strategy of all. “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible,” Godin says.
3. When something’s not going to work, recognise the sunk costs and move on. At the point that you know your product’s future isn’t going to be remarkable, it’s time to change route immediately. Why? Because unless people are going to be fascinated by it, they’re not going to talk about it, so investing in this “dying product” isn’t worthwhile.
4. Instead of trying to sell to the masses, grab the attention of “the sneezers.” In the beginning, the customers you attract are crucial, because they’re going to be the ones who get the word out for you. In other words, don’t make your product “bland enough to work for the masses. These companies make spicy food less spicy, and they make insanely great service a little less great (and a little cheaper).”
5. Identify your most profitable demographic. “The Sneezers” will eventually enable your idea to “migrate to the rest of the masses.”
You need to figure out the group of people that’s most profitable for your business and appeal to them. It’d be even better if you “figure out how to develop/advertise/reward either group.”
Aside from these “sneezers,” Godin says you should ignore everyone else and shouldn’t aim to cater to the masses.
6. Take advantage of the slump. It’s easier to be remarkable during an economic downturn because everyone else is too afraid to test the waters.
In fact, right now is the perfect time to launch something because the “marketplace is getting faster and more fluid. Yes, we’re too busy to pay attention, but a portion of the population is more restless than ever. Some people are happy to switch their long distance service, their airline, their accounting firm—whatever it takes to get an edge,” Godin says.
7. Get in the zone. You don’t have to be a genius to create a hit product, but you do need to have the right mindset.
Godin says you don’t need a ton of passion or creativity. What you do need is “that insight to realise that you have no other choice but to grow your business or launch your product with Purple Cow thinking.”
If you want to make something mediocre, this kind of thinking is obviously not needed, but if you want something remarkable, your strategy needs to be a little more focused on long-term results.
8. Take a cheap shot. If you’ve tried all outlets and it doesn’t take off, then figure out a way to distribute it more cheaply.
Companies that choose the cheap route can still create demand for their products. Godin says being cheap is the “lazy way out of the battle for the Purple Cow,” but can be used as a last refuge if you’re out of great ideas.
“If you could build a competitor that had costs that were 30 per cent lower than yours, could you do it? If you could, why don’t you?”
9. Don’t be a one-hit wonder. Once you’ve created a hit, it’s time to launch a new remarkable product.
Palm, Yahoo!, AOL, Marriott, Marvel Comics and Maxwell House all did this: “Each company had a breakthrough, built an empire around it, and then failed to take another risk.”
Maxwell House decided to play it safe pre-Starbucks invasion and now “they remain stuck with not much more than they had a decade ago.”
Instead, they should’ve launched a new Purple Cow. “Do it again (to the same audience),” Godin writes, “but also assume what was remarkable last time won’t be so remarkable this time.”
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