It would be better for everyone if we deleted everything by default and saved the things that are important to us. – Evan Spiegel
In the last post we looked at how you should make it easy for people to do business with you.
One important part of that is how you look when compared to the competition – how easy is it to find someone else who does what you do?
What is your moat?
If you’re going to spend a significant amount of time and money getting started on a new project you want to make sure that you have a sustainable competitive advantage.
That doesn’t mean just being a little bit better or providing the same thing everyone else does.
If what you do can be widely found and easily compared, then you are operating in a commodity market, and price setting is done by the market.
The advantage you have to have in that situation is in your ability to keep costs low and market your product effectively.
Or you can be content with a smaller market share.
For example, if you open a market stall you’ll be in a space competing with other, similar food businesses and your income will depend on the level of demand in any given period.
If you’d like to have more control, however, you need to start building a moat, something that acts as a barrier to entry for other people wanting to compete with you.
That’s why you’d build your castle on top of a big hill, surrounded by defensive walls, with a moat and spikes to greet people.
What you want to do is make them stop and think again, look at what you’ve created and decide that maybe it’s best not to compete with you.
Using content to set yourself apart
Think about your business idea – the thing that you want to do.
What is it that sets you apart these days?
It’s not pricing or service – the world is full of national service providers who can provide anything anywhere faster and cheaper than a startup can.
What they can’t do is provide you – you as an individual.
If you try and compete on the basis of stuff – it’s quite likely that you’ll come up against competitors that have more and better stuff than you.
If you compete on the basis of you – well, that’s unique, there’s only one of you and you have her or him.
So the first thing you have to do is think about how you can make your business about you, about your team.
This can be a difficult concept to accept because most people feel like they would like to separate their business from themselves – as if it could be run and delivered by anyone.
And you can do that – but you won’t have an advantage over the other identical, anonymous services out there.
The kind of advantage you have when you work on building a personal connection with others in your market.
And these days you do that through content, by creating material that shows the world what you do.
And if you create enough of it you start to create your moat – you build this collection of material that showcases how well you do what you do and how you go about doing what you do.
The trick with content is keeping it focused, making it easy for yourself and working in the same space day after day.
Select a format and stick with it.
When I started this blog, for example, I settled on a format that worked for me: a hand-drawn image that captured the essence of the concept, a relevant quote, and then a piece of text that explored the concept further.
The topics have been wide ranging, but within the realm of management and the improvement of situations that people consider problematic – and in my field and for the people I work with, it helps to establish my capability at doing what I do.
When you look around for examples of people who do this, the best ones are not necessarily the most popular content creators.
With popular content, the audience that watches is actually part of the creator’s product – their market is actually the advertisers who want to reach that audience.
The best examples for a business that’s getting started are the ones that create content that is relevant and helpful to their customers and helps them achieve certain outcomes.
But it’s hard to start with what’s in your customer’s minds – so it’s best to start with what’s in yours.
And work out a way to express and publish that.
Selecting where to publish your creative work
There are a bewildering array of choices out there for how to get your content published.
It depends on the nature of your business, your ability to use the technology, your comfort levels with opening up to the outside world.
There is no one best way – there is only the way that works for you.
Ask yourself what you find easy to do that other people find hard.
If you like writing, then long form blog posts may be the way to go.
If you are happier speaking but don’t like being in front of the camera, then try out podcasts, screencasts or narrated presentations.
If you like video, then talk to camera.
The important thing is to pick an approach that works for you, your personality and your ideas, and work on creating content.
You build your defences by first piling up everything you can and then you can build your castle on top.
You can publish on every platform out there or pick a few and let people find you.
In the early stages, treat what you do as a learning opportunity.
You’re learning if you can create content in this way, day after day, without burning out.
You’re learning if you like doing what you’re doing – life is too short to spend doing tasks you hate.
But if you’re creating content on topics that interest you using methods that are easy for you to use – then it’s really simple to accumulate that material you need – the material that will eventually help you stand apart from everyone else.
But it helps if what you do has something unique about it.
And creating something unique is easier to do than you might think.
We’ll look at that next.