Is Your Company a Tribute Band?
Tribute bands pretend to be something else. Their motivation may be out of admiration, but essentially these musicians copy successful bands right down to dress, hair style and accent. Tribute bands appeal to a subset of fans of the bands being imitated. They limit their potential by pretending to be musicians perceived to be more talented than themselves.
Is your company a tribute band? Are you constantly pretending to be your competitor? Here are some ways to tell:
- Do you scour every catalog from your competitors looking for their new products? Do you then pick up or knock off the same products as soon as you can?
- Do you imitate your competitors in terms of their product presentations and general design?
- Do you constantly refer to your competitors as doing their businesses better than you do your own?
- If someone on your team suggests something new, do you reject the idea because your competitor isn't already doing it?
When I review the landscape for a variety of product verticals, I find a remarkable similarity, especially in terms of products and offers. If you can't distinguish yourself from the pack, you'll never break out in front of it.
Here are some steps to finding your company's own identity:
- Create or revitalize your product development team. Charge them with coming up with new products, bundles, packaging and rebranding of generic products. Differentiate yourself with your products. Expand beyond the vendors that supply all of your competitors. Create new things. This is probably the most important step in taking your company to the next level of success.
- Don't limit your new product to physical things. Is there a new service, such as autoshipping consumable products, that you can offer your customers?
- It's OK to emulate design and copy presentation, just don't copy your competitors. If you must, find a presentation or two from different verticals and copy those. Often the act of translating a design concept to fit a different product line creates something new.
- Encourage and develop a testing mechanism for new offer ideas. Stop talking ideas to death and test them instead.
In 2014 resolve to stop being a tribute band and find your own voice.
A columnist for Retail Online Integration, George founded HAGUEdirect, a marketing agency. Previously he was a member of the Shawnee Mission, Kan.-based consulting and creative agency J. Schmid & Assoc. He has more than 10 years of experience in circulation, advertising, consulting and financial strategy in the catalog/retail industry. George's expertise includes circulation strategy, mailing execution, response analysis and financial planning. Before joining J. Schmid, George worked as catalog marketing director at Dynamic Resource Group, where he was responsible for marketing and merchandising for the Annie's Attic Needlecraft catalog, the Clotilde Sewing Notions catalog, the House of White Birches Quilter's catalog and three book clubs. George also worked on corporate acquisitions.