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4. Seth Godin’s ‘Purple Cow’ interpreted for small business

For Seth Godin the Purple Cow is the eighth P of marketing – along with Product, Price, Promotion, Place or route to market, People, Physical Presence (branding) and Process – and it stands for ‘Be remarkable’. Yes, he is cheating a bit, but you get the point.

There are a number of lessons that small businesses can take from this book, but as his approach is radical they need to be taken with caution. Godin says:

  • Find a market with potential for a very specialist niche, where there are enthusiasts (what the Japanese call otaku – more than a hobby but less than an obsession) and perhaps a communication vehicle in place, for instance a special interest forum etc.
  • Differentiate your customers – look at your most profitable group, your ideal customer and target more exactly to their needs.
  • Develop remarkable products or services to meet the wants of these people – the differentiating factor may not have to be great as long as for the key target audience it has ‘the Wow factor’ – for many people a super-hot sauce is a ‘so what?’ but for the enthusiasts, it’s remarkable.
  • Look at the competition to find an under-served niche to dominate.
  • Put your effort into the product or service and make it special, rather than an unremarkable product with remarkable advertising – the enthusiasts will publicise it for you if they think the prduct is great.
  • How could you modify your product or service to make it newsworthy?
  • Get e-mail addresses for all your customers, especially those who love what you do, and stay in touch.
  • Look around the edges of a market for the new opportunity – if the market leader is vanilla, what is the new exciting flavour? Be comfortable out of the mainstream; in ice-cream, think Ben & Jerrys
  • Find the slogan, the positioning statement that will provide a memorable script and make it easy for the enthusiasts to promote to their community.
  • Look at other industries; explore the limits; ask why not.These precepts are particularly apt for the new business looking for a way in, or for a new venture for an existing entrepreneur, but need to be used cautiously with an existing business where there are lot of valued customers to offend if you get it wrong – and by the nature of this approach you are going to be entering uncharted territory where it is easy to make mistakes. Small businesses, however, because they can be very flexible have a plus: they can take advantage of opportunities that would be unseen or scorned by large businesses.That’s the concept, but is this one of those concepts which sounds great because the examples are all successes and no one gathers examples of all the failures? Business is simple but it is not easy! You always need to look beyond the superficial conclusion – otherwise it can be like visiting the Delphic oracle in classical times: the answer may later prove to be correct, but it may not have meant what you thought it meant.

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