Whenever you are thinking of a new venture, it is worth reminding yourself of a very accurate remark by Mark Cuban, namely: “When you start a business – you are never in a vacuum with no competition. If there’s gonna be competition, this means that somebody knows your business as well as you do when you get started.”
There will always be a product that will be similar to yours. Likely, there will be products that are better than yours. Luckily for you, we don’t live in a world where the technically best product always wins and becomes the most popular. If that were the case, your phone would have an unpronounceable Chinese name, and a headphone jack. Unlike your new iPhone.
Know the business, know the customers
There may a couple dimensions to your angle. It may be the angle that you are using to attack the specific problem. It may be the angle that you are using to take care of your customer. If you have an attention span longer than 30 seconds, you may have lasted long enough in that Mark Cuban video to hear him say “If they still know more about your business than you do, and know more about your customers, you’re gonna lose.” This is an interesting point to hang onto. Humans, all of us, are extremely subjective. The best of us sometimes have a hard time looking at facts and numbers when faced with our emotions and instinctive reactions. This means that knowing the customers, and playing into their emotions and expectations can be just as effective as having the best product out there. In many business areas there is no clear best product – all the products are similar and the differences are small, and the angle is the only thing that differentiates companies.
The customer care angle
In Europe, there are several subscription services for diapers. One of them is “Lilydoo”. The difference between Lilydoo and their competitors is their customer service. They are very bold in making it clear that what is important for them is not the parent, but the kid. Everything is oriented around the child. For example: instead of giving you a discount, they will give you more product for the same price. They also don’t want to be the cheapest on the market – they just focus on the kids’ experience.
Apple have one of the most impressive customer care approaches. Apple stores are plentiful, and in each one of them you can find someone that will blow some compressed air through your headphone jack. Your presence in their store is acknowledged and you are greeted and assisted within 10 seconds. They have a system in place where whenever you call through to customer support, you are always talking to the same person. All these things were not thought of after Apple became the world’s wealthiest company, they were planned and implemented from the early stages.
Considering the needs, expectations and convenience of your customer is as important a part of the business as the product itself. In a globalized market in which everything is easily available, the competition is always fierce. As improvements and developments in a certain industry reach a certain level, all the top products in this industry quickly take on these similar features. As products get better, differences between them get smaller. If the products themselves are similar, the only way we can seek to make ourselves different is to treat the customer differently. After all, every product goes to a customer, and the whole experience the customer is something with which we can also impress. Quickly search your mind for customer service experiences – you only remember the really bad ones, and the really good ones. Nobody remembers just-okay customer service.
The “way you do things” angle
The next angle is often referred to as a unique value proposition, unique selling proposition, or your “unfair advantage”, or something else entirely. We prefer just calling it an angle. It’s a rhetoric angle: How do you differentiate yourself from the crowd? How do you present this difference to your customers, investors or audience? If you have an opinion on a specific topic, on the way things should be done in your line of business – share it! What creates a successful company is not only the product or the idea, it’s the execution – it’s the way you solve a need, solve a problem. It’s not just identifying the problem, it’s the way you do things. Having an angle on the way you do things, such as “carbon neutral”, “eco-friendly”, “organic” is something valuable and something that needs to be shared. Otherwise, you are likely not using the full potential of your resources. Some people won’t be fond of the way you are doing things – you cannot please everyone. This is okay. This just means you are different from the crowd.
Create your own league
Having an angle will help you differentiate yourself in the market, and also create a sense of property from the customer’s point of view. Look at the big gap between Android and Apple. You can love your Samsung, but if somewhere along the line HTC or Xiaomi bring out a superior phone, you will probably go for that one. This is a huge advantage that Apple created by being starkly different.
They created their own angle of doing things: their own operating system, their own apps, their own phone, and only one phone at a time, instead of 20 different models. As they are so different, they are in their own category. It is not Apple vs. Huawei vs. Samsung vs. Nokia and so on. It is Apple vs. Android as a whole. Think of how many Android fans you know. Sure, some exist somewhere, but not to the scale of hard-line iPhone fanatics. Think of how many people you know that only buy Apple, often without regard for what it is: they only buy it because it’s Apple and it’s new. There is a very strong brand loyalty that Apple created through recognising their angles, embracing and focusing on them, and playing them to the fullest. Stand out so much that you are put in your own league.