A couple days ago I visited my local Menchies. If you’ve never been to Menchies you should go there. But don’t go alone. Take your spouse, your kids or your grandkids and treat them to the best frozen yogurt experience around. They’ve got several flavors to choose from with all the fixin’s to put on it!
So, there I am eating my froyo, and this lady comes in and goes to the cashier. I thought perhaps she was going to book a birthday party. But then the cashier took a large, 3 ring binder from under the counter and handed it to the lady. I know that 3 ring binder. It has all the nutrition information inside for each flavor of frozen yogurt and each topping they offer to put on it.
At this point I thought the lady must have some special dietary need. I watched as she carefully read page after page of information. And then she asked the cashier if she could see an ingredients list on a packet of flavoring they use for their yogurt. The cashier obliged the lady and handed her a packet.
Wow, I thought, this lady must really have some serious dietary issues!
Next, the lady asked the cashier a question which I didn’t hear, but the cashier responded that she could not give out that information. The cashier quickly took back the packet of flavoring which the lady still clutched in her hands and didn’t want to let go. This whole thing seemed very bizarre. What was this lady after?
The lady got a disgusted look on her face and walked out. I was the only other customer in the shop and so I looked at the cashier and said, “Wow! She must really have had some serious allergies or something.” “No,” replied the cashier. “She owns a yogurt shop and she is trying to figure out our yogurt formula. Today isn’t the first time she’s come in here and asked for information on our ingredients. But we can’t give our formula out to anyone. We will lose our jobs if we do. It’s in our contract when we’re hired. She also watches the things we do here – like our five dollar Fridays – and she copies them. And, she’s not the only one.”
I knew that entrepreneurs and other business entities copied each other. You see it all the time. Company A comes out with some new whiz bang thing that sells for a hundred bucks and does well in the market place, and the next thing you know there are five knock-offs on the market selling for less than half that.
But, I was surprised that this lady would go through the trouble of starting her own yogurt shop only to try to copy a franchise. There can only be one Menchies, after all, and no matter how hard she tries she’ll never be them. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
What this lady really should have done was watch her competition – which includes Menchies as well as all the other froyo places in the area – and then ask herself how she can do even better than they have, or what she can do that is uniquely different. Menchies is self serve. What if this lady’s froyo shop had waiters? Menchies has all the fixin’s. What if this lady’s shop had even more fixin’s? Menchies is a small place with small tables and chairs. What if this lady’s shop had booths? Menchies has a franchise feel to it. But, this lady’s shop is not a franchise. Why not capitalize on that? There are so many things she could do.
You can’t be someone else and it’s a bad idea to try. What goes for that lady goes for you and me too. Your booklet shouldn’t be a copy of someone else’s work. It should be your own. Your business shouldn’t be a copy of someone else’s. It should be unique to your own audience. There is only one you, and you are the one who will make your booklets and your business stand out in the marketplace. You are why your audience will show up.
If froyo customers want to go to Menchies, that’s where they’ll go. It doesn’t matter how hard that lady tries to imitate them. It will never work. Likewise, once your audience gets to know you – you will be the one they’ll listen to and buy from, as long as you are giving them value and you’re not just a cheap imitation of someone else.
Like Menchies, there is only one Starbucks. Not everyone loves Starbucks, but they are number one in the marketplace and all others are imitators.
And can you imagine a single burger joint trying to copy McDonnalds? It would be an utter disaster. McDonnalds isn’t that good anyway. Why not make really GOOD hamburgers and charge more instead?
Write your booklets and grow your business, but do it your way. Be who you are meant to be and your audience will love you for it because they can’t find you anywhere else!
To your riches!
PS: I welcome your comments as always!
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