Standing out from the Crowd

No matter how experienced your sales team is, we can all use a marketing lesson once in a while. To quote Bob Dylan, “The times, they are a’changin’,” and it’s strategic to add new tools to your sales toolbox. An excellent resource to keep your company and its marketing up to date is Guy Kawasaki’s blog. What distinguishes Kawasaki from a sea of marketing gurus is his practicality and connection to emerging business trends. He understands evolving strategies like social media, internet marketing and search engine optimization, but he’s also aware of issues that have affected companies since the Stone Age.

One of my favorite posts, “The Lesson of Satzuma” (which appeared on American’s Express’ site Open Forum) follows the trials of a small company trying to compete with much larger companies, like Panasonic and Microsoft, at a major trade show. Satzuma was the quintessential “small fish in a big pond,” but by using time-tested strategies to stand out in a crowd, they established a distinct presence in the vast exhibition hall. Here’s what we can learn from their example:

1. Know your strengths. Most of us know that it’s better to do one thing well, than many things poorly. In business, it’s tempting to develop a virtual buffet of products in an attempt to generate larger profits, but this will only water down your brand. Find the sweet spot, your lucky charm, or slam dunk product, and let that one item shine to stand out from your competitors. Satsuma sells nothing but novelty USB devices like aquariums, missile launchers, and lava lamps. Their quirky products stood out in the sea of tablet devices and wide screen TVs.

2. Have fun. Don’t let the monotony of corporate life extinguish your enthusiasm. Remember, most of us are just big kids wearing fancy ties or designer shoes. Products that make people smile, forget about the pressures of adult life, or add a lighthearted touch busy days are always easier to market. While your products may not have the same “fun factor” as Satzuma’s, it pays to discover the delight they can bring to potential clients.

3. Work smarter, not harder. Gurus like Guy Kawasaki and Gary Hamel continually remind us that we need to “think differently.” This doesn’t mean that you have to reinvent the wheel, but when you’re selling basic products like kitchen gear, tech gadgets, or even academic services, it pays to distinguish your brand. It’s better to be the only company marketing a truly unique product, like Satzuma’s creative thumb drives, than to peddle products that are almost identical to the ones your competitors are selling.

Keep these concepts in mind the next time you’re considering a product line, preparing for product development, launching a start-up, or assessing your competition. Above all else, remember to be yourself – identify the ideas that make your company truly unique and use them to your advantage.


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