How To Avoid Having a 'Me Too' Business
by Anna Johnson
We all know of 'me too' businesses - businesses selling commodities whose only point of difference is, for example, price. Or, if the difference isn't price, it's some kind of contrived promotional device such as a discount, bonus or contest.
Sure, there are many big companies that seem to have survived and thrived selling commodities... but it's a dangerous thing to sell in a typical Internet marketing niche where such products can easily be copied...
When I think about it, the only businesses that tend to do well selling commodities are monopoly businesses i.e. where the business has no competition and they can set whatever prices they want. For everyone else - i.e. everyone with current or potential competitors - it's generally necessary to differentiate their products. As indicated above, the reason is simple: 'me too' products and businesses are vulnerable to wars based on price and other arbitrary factors.
If, for example, you're in a market where a competitor comes along selling the same product for less, you'll start losing sales and profits. If you decide to drop your price in response, you'll lose profits. And if you decide to use promotional devices such as discounts, bonuses or competitions, you'll also effectively erode your profits.
It's a vicious cycle where the company with the deepest pockets i.e. sufficient cash reserves to cope with a price war is likely to survive. But even this is a bitter victory, because the 'winner' ends up with less profits too.
While you might associate commodities with items such as sugar and iron ore, the Internet marketing arena is also full of commodity or 'me too' online businesses that have nothing much to differentiate themselves. Anyone selling yet another basic guide on how to start an online business falls into this trap.
Sure they may get a few sales, but they're unlikely to establish a hugely successful business selling such a guide... simply because they're not offering anything unique and better than what is already available. Actually it's worse than that, because it's usually much harder for a newcomer with the 'same old product' to make inroads into the market in the first place. So these products don't just lose money... they don't make much money (if any) to begin with.
Another area where I see a lot of 'me too' businesses is affiliate marketing. Unfortunately, this is somewhat due to all those 'step by step' systems that show people how to set up an affiliate business and may even provide template websites for people to use.
The problem is that if there are 10, 20 or a 100 affiliates using the same templates, selling the same products, and using the same promotional methods... there is no way for anyone to stand out as being different. In this case, it won't be a 'price' game but a 'traffic' game: he or she with the most traffic will win.
No question, some people are quite happy to play this traffic game (we play it in some of the niches our business is in) and do exceptionally well, but let's not kid ourselves: there's nothing different or special about the business itself.
So how do you avoid being a 'me too' online business? It may not be easy, but the concept is simple: you work out how to deliver a different and better solution to what others are already providing. If you sell information products in a particular niche, then you identify and fill the gaps that your competitors aren't addressing.
When it comes to affiliate marketing, the principle is exactly the same. Even though the product you're promoting may not unique to you, the way in which you promote it can be unique. Moreover the solution you provide to your audience can also be unique. As an affiliate marketer, for example, you have a unique opportunity to be a 'trusted adviser' to your audience and, as such, can promote certain products as part of an overall solution that is unique to you.
While your situation may be such that you do have a monopoly... or you can sell the same products as everyone else and still beat them based on generating more qualified traffic... in other niches your best chance of building a successful business is to differentiate yourself from everyone else. So while it may be tempting to 'do what everyone else is doing' I suggest holding back and focusing, instead, of developing a unique and better solution.
Anna Johnson publishes Internet marketing newsletter, Kikabink News. Get a FREE subscription to Kikabink News as well as a FREE copy of Anna's ebook, Killer Internet Marketing Tips, plus four FREE killer 60+ minute audio interviews with top Internet marketers: Killer Internet marketing tips
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