One of the biggest misconceptions about running your own business is that you need to have a unique product or service in order to succeed. However, nothing could be further from the truth. If you think about it from a statistical odds point of view, the numbers speak for themselves:
There are 7.6 billion people on this planet right now. It's almost inevitable that someone's already doing something similar to what you want to do!
There's a reason why 'unicorn' start-ups are rare - statistically, it's hard (read: virtually impossible) to develop a unique product or business that's an instant, sure-fire winner which isn't, in some way, indebted to what has come before it.
Improve on great ideas
A more realistic starting point for any new business should instead be about what improvements you can make to an existing product or service.
For example, Steve Jobs didn't invent the personal computer, but he did make it a lot more user-friendly and sexier from a design perspective than his competitors - and that's what gave him an edge and led him to be labelled as an innovator.
And Google was not the first search engine on the scene. There have been many others. AltaVista, Netscape, MetaCrawler, Lycos, Excite, InfoSeek, Ask.com, AOL Search and many more. The reason Google is now the most popular search engine is because it improved on the things that matter to users the most: speed, relevance of results, depth of indexing, simple interface, query-specific snippets and their single-minded focus on search.
What's your spin?
So, if you discover that somebody else has the same idea or business model that you do, don't freak out. It's actually proof that there's a market for what you want to do! Instead, try and identify your point of difference - what sets you apart from the competition. This could be anything from:
- Adding a twist to an existing product/service
- Performing a service faster than anybody else
- Providing a superior service than your competitors
- Developing a niche skill aimed at a particular segment of the market, such as being a consultant who speaks a particular language and has a lot of experience in doing deals in a particular region of the world
Nobody can do it the way you do it
Accept the fact that other people are doing what you want to do but that it's okay. They're not you. They don't have the same unique combination of voice, experience, perspective and style as you. Only you can bring that unique blend to your business and your clients.
Still figuring out your USP? Don't be afraid to ask questions
If you are not sure exactly what your USP is, then your first port of call needs to be taking a closer look at the competition. Suss out their selling points - what is it about that brand or company that people love?
If you already have existing customers and/or following, poll them to find out why they chose to work with you instead of someone else.
If you know where your potential clients gather, ask them what they want and what they'd love to see included in a product / service that will truly address their pain points.
Marketing guru Ryan Levesque claims that his earnings skyrocketed when he started asking people why they weren't buying his product. Their answers made him realise that instead of one type of customer, he actually had four. So rather than take a 'one-size-fits-all' approach, he started customising his product to suit each of his customer's needs. And when he did that, sales went crazy.
"The secret to succeeding in business today is the same as it was 100 years ago: Find out what people want, and give it to them."
So if you are just starting out and are feeling a bit disheartened because market research has revealed that your business idea is not as unique as you thought it was, don't despair.
The true secret to success is not to try and reinvent the wheel, but rather to put your own particular spin on it. And more importantly, market your product or service in such a way that your customer thinks that it was made exactly for them.
I'd like to know...
Have you ever felt excited to have come up with a business idea, only to feel disheartened when you found out someone else is doing the same thing? How did you move forward? Would love to hear your experience.