“Monkey See, Monkey Do.” I don’t know if copying is some sort of evolutionary trait, or if there’s even a gene for it, however, I do know a lot of people do it.
I once met a guy who read the “Four Hour Work Week” and decided to create a business by directly copying the nutrition supplement business laid out in the book step by step. He called the factory that provided the supplements and the guy on the phone said “Wait a minute, are you calling because you read ‘Four Hour work week,’ too?” Appearently he wasn’t alone.
Some humans do it for survival, because some ideas are so good that they must be shared. Others copy just because they’re lazy. There’s a 99% chance any business you start will be a derivative of a business already out there. Your goal, if you want to be successful, is to not copy but to improve a business idea. Here are my suggestions on how:
Make it Faster
You need to use new or different technology and/or systems to perform tasks at an improved rate. Ray Kroc made McDonalds what it is today by using Henry Ford’s idea of an assembly line, and standardized how every burger was made, which made fast food even faster.
Make it Cheaper
You need to be like Walmart and find your Chinese supplier. They may not even be Chinese, they can be from Eastern Europe, India, or Mexico. But if you’re providing a product, I’m pretty sure someone is producing it cheaper somewhere on this planet – you just have to find them.
Make it Better
Maybe you don’t want an international supplier, you want quality control. You need the best materials, or if you’re a service then the best educated employees. The trickier part is usually choosing between cheaper or better, but if you can figure out how to do both, you’ve struck gold.
Make it for Everyone
The world is your customer. Not every company can be everything for everyone, but if you provide a product or service that does sell something for everyone, then your market is huge. However, you should still try to narrow down your approach, because no matter what, you won’t be able to reach everyone, everywhere, every time, ever.
Make it Selective
Location: The shipping company Overnight Express thrives because it only delivers to California, Nevada, and Arizona over night. It filled a demand no big company could satisfy.
People: My friend has a wedding videography company, but he mainly serves the Vietnamese community. He is doing very, VERY well.
Price: A Rolls Royce is a luxury item first, and a car second.
Make it to Order
The perfume company Le Labo does something cool: They make your perfume in-store. People love it because they can choose their ingredients and they are probably the only person with that mixture of scents, so they go come knowing they have something special.
Make it Easier
The Flip camcorder has excelled as a camera product because it only does one thing and it does it well.
Make it Environmentally Friendly
If you have a product, make sure it’s recyclable or biodegradable. If you have a service, make sure to let your customers know that you run a “Green” business.
Make it for Charity
Let your customer know that you’re either donating all or a portion of your business to charity, and which one. If you have a competitor, this fact alone can make or break a sale.
Make it An Experience
Bungeeamerica.com has every would-be-bungee jumper to traverse across 5 miles of nature and rivers to arrive at this bridge in the middle of nowhere. They could just set up a tower and jump off of that, but the 5 mile hike is what makes it even more memorable.
Your ultimate goal is to improve your business idea by trying to at least accomplish 2 or 3 of the beneficial traits. If you can do 5 of these, you must be doing well, and if you can do all of these, well…who is the ulitmate company that does all of these things at the same time? Google. I’m not going to go into how it accomplishes all of these things, but I’m sure you can figure it out.
Tell me how you’re taking an old business idea and making it better.