If I was asked to provide one single hard truth of modern business it would be this – that the majority of businesses are boring, unremarkable and indistinguishable from their competitors.

They don’t stand out, they don’t produce products or services that are interesting or ground-breaking and they don’t WOW their customers. They play it safe mostly because they don’t know what else to do.

The problem is that boring is an increasingly risky strategy and a leading cause of business failure. Modern markets are crowded and competitive and it’s tough to stand out in them. Customers are time-poor and have huge choice about where to spend their money and they have little patience for boring propositions. In tough economic times they have less money to spend too. These are not happy circumstances for undifferentiated, unremarkable or boring businesses.

But look around. Boring is everywhere. And the marketplace is tired of it and annoyed they have to put up with it. Given the opportunity they will quickly switch and reward any new innovation that better solves their problems. When that happens the boring stuff is quickly forgotten and it becomes invisible to them. Decline (of the boring businesses) is an inevitable consequence.

Seth Godin, in his wonderful book, Purple Cow, said it best when he draws the analogy of how individually unremarkable (and boring) a paddock full of brown cows is but if there is just one purple cow amongst them it will stand out and get all the attention. The same applies in a marketplace.

When I first started in business 25 years ago companies created safe products for unsophisticated and less competitive markets. They then spent tons of money on great marketing and mainstream media to tell their story. It was a hugely successful strategy but it doesn’t work anymore. Great products that people actively seek out and talk about is what is now needed.

There is only one option if you want to prosper in the long term and that is to become a Purple Cow. The only other choice is to fade into oblivion and become invisible in your market.

There’s no blue-print to becoming a Purple Cow. But I do know that you need to be bold and adventurous. You need to remember, and keep the great lessons of your past but don’t dwell on the “old days.” The past is only useful to the point where it can help you predict the future. Further, “good” products are no longer good enough. Creating powerful product or service improvements that dramatically and positively impact your customers’ lives is what is required.

Maybe Seth Godin’s own advice -“find things that just aren’t done in your industry and then go ahead and do them” – sums it up best…

Article by The Bull


Image by Vika Prokopaviciute