No competitive advantage? Don’t compete.

I was browsing some of the new audio book selections at the public library the other day. The main publisher of these titles, which come loaded on handy Tic Tac-sized audio player (just plug in your headset), has—for some reason—genericized the look and feel of its audiobook offerings.

After a few minutes of browsing, I tired of the exercise. Because each spine looked identical, they all blended into a seamless sea of red and white. I had to laboriously read each word of the title, digest the author’s name to see if it was one I recognized, and scan the spine for a subhead or descriptor. Then I noticed that some of the book offerings DID have more traditional book cover-type designs. Unique colors, bold fonts, famous authors’ names in larger print since they carried name recognition equity.

So what’s the lesson? If your small business has no distinguishable competitive advantage, you’re asking your prospects and customers to work too hard to discover a reason to patronize you. If you’re not going to make it easy for your prospects and customers to find a preference in what you offer; if you’re not going to bother finding a focus, a point of differentiation, or a dominant selling idea that people can readily recognize and embrace; if you’re not willing to give them a reason to do business with you, you might as well stop competing altogether. When you blend in—when you’re a “me too” business—you’ll look just like the shelf of indistinguishable offerings in a crowded marketplace.

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