Monthly Archives: October 2014

The One and Only

Products become more and more interchangeable. But nobody wants substitutable products. A dilemma? Let’s see how companies, products and people can be positioned as unique even today.

“You gain more loyal customers if you offer a WOW-solution for a very specific target group rather than the same for everyone,” says Ute Hagen. “Your solution has to meet the needs of your customers so well that it exceeds their expectations”. So far, so good. But what do customers actually want and how do companies react?

One of the most basic needs is food in good quality and at affordable prices. In the 70s a company revolutionized the German and later also the European supermarket industry: It offered exclusively own-brand (better say non-brand) products which were cheaply produced in masses by branded companies and newly labelled. There was no advertising for these products. They were sold in boxes on pallets on the floor instead of being given in shelves. A concept for a poor target group? Not only. The super cheap supermarkets attracted their customers even among wealthy people, spread throughout Europe and made their founders the richest Germans. As competitors began to run such a trade brand strategy, too, and––on the other hand––the customers also asked for more fresh produce besides cheap food, the company diversified its product range. As it turned out, this was a successful shift: Today the customers come to the supermarkets of that chain believing to fill their shopping basket with all they want and the most economical way.

But beware: Only in rare cases the niche is in the price. Success is far more likely for very special offers of products or services that are truly unique as another retail business example proofs. The mass majority of all customers of furniture stores are looking for low prices and accept standard models following general fashion trends. However, a Munich-based company successfully met a market gap: Concerning to the founder’s slogan which freely translated reads “The Living Radical”, the company opened a store for absolutely unusual furniture and home accessories. Today they run stores all over the world. Even niche markets can be global.

The good thing about us humans is that almost everyone of us has abilities that are unique in their combination. Especially a “patchwork CV” has all the ingredients to develop unique business ideas or niche strategies. For me, the advertising copywriting skills on the one hand and the experience and knowledge in the commercial and marketing industry on the other helped me to get orders for copywriting and PR journalism for trade fair and event magazines. And not only entrepreneurs or self-employed profit from such patchwork combinations but also employees. Anyone who had gone through a building craft training and a commercial apprenticeship, too, can perfectly fill a gap in the management of a real estate administration company with his knowledge.

The best thing is that you as founder do not necessarily need your own WOW solution. Just benefit from the proven success of other concepts and open a franchisee or licensee company! You may for example become the local partner for exclusive distribution of an already well-known brand in your region. This will considerably lower the risk of building up your business. And your franchisor or licensor does not have to open and run a local store because you do this for him. Ute Hagen is franchise partner of a global HR consulting firm and loves to share her experiences with any founder.

One of the most successful German franchise networks distributes prefab houses according to standardized architectural models and with extensive financial support and guarantees. So it fulfills the desire of hundreds of thousands of people to live in a home affordable for them. Another very young and successful franchise company from Austria has opened up an entirely new market niche: It focuses on veggie burgers and thus serves the organic and the fast food trend alike––two markets that previously had absolutely no intersection. So why not take advantage of the unique ideas of others?

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