Be a Category of One.
One of my favorite business books of all time is Becoming a Category of One by Joe Calloway. In this book, Calloway challenges businesses to not become the leader in a category but to create a new category within your industry altogether, thus becoming a “Category of One”.
Easier said than done right? Wrong. It’s really not as hard as you think but there are action steps you must take in order to identify who you are and what new category you want to create for your company. Calloway provides this advice to all business leaders in order to become a “Category of One”.
1. Have a story. Think about it. In order to differentiate yourself from anyone else in your industry, you must have something that no one else has. The easiest place to start in defining these unique attributes is your story. It’s yours, no one has it so learn how to tell it, share it, and use it to your advantage.
2. Adapt to change. The world is constantly changing and you need to be able to transform your company to the constant evolution and not become comfortable with where you are today. If you do, you will disappear and become a category of extinct like the good old T-Rex or Blockbuster.
3. Defy comparison. Find a way to take the basic, do it better than the rest and then make your competition a non-issue. Stop worrying about how to “beat” your competition. Instead, worry about how to “beat” your customer’s expectations….every single time.
4. Your brand is most important and your customers define it. Whether you want to admit it or not, whether you spent thousands of dollars for a marketing agency to brand the crap out of you, none of it will define you the way your customers will. Especially in today’s world of social media and instant content sharing, your customers’ definition of your brand is ultimately what defines your brand. In the most basic of explanations, perception is reality and you must deliver on what you want your customers to perceive every single time. If not, then you change your reality to your customer’s perception and market the crap out of it. Take for example. They started out
5. Be better, not different. If you go through your competitive advantage exercises and conduct your SWOT analysis and at the end your result is that you are completely equal in terms of product, price, place, service, and quality to your competition then what do you do? It’s simple. Be better, not different… to your customer. Know your customer better. Get closer to your customer. Emotionally connect with your customer better than anyone else out there.
6. Be Consistent. Delivering on the basics consistently will win with customers every single time. People like reliability, comfort, and the ability for others to meet (not exceed) expectations.
So now that you know the basic principles on what becoming a “Category of One” means, how do you create it?
Since I learn way better through real life examples vs. theory, here are some amazing examples of Baltimore-based companies who became a “Category of One”… whether they intended to or not. And since their new category creation, other companies have followed in their footsteps trying to compete in the same category vs. creating their own.
And I guarantee you, these “Category of One” companies below are not going to sleep at night worried about how they are going to “beat” their competition now. They are going to bed innovating how they can “beat” and exceed their customer’s wildest expectations in creating new categories. I encourage you to learn more about each of these companies and find out their strategies to becoming a “Category of One”.
Example #1 – Pixilated Photobooth (www.PixilatedPhotobooth.com )
Gone are the days of ugly, velvet curtain, crowded photo booths that cut off half the people in the picture like this.
And thanks to Pixilated Photobooth, welcome to the FUN photo experiences that never, ever get old or ugly or crowded.
Example #2 – Up Dos For I Dos (www.updosforidos.com )
After years of working in a well-known beauty salon, Founder Ashley Riddle, was tired of seeing brides come in stressed out, pressed for time, and downright uncomfortable for their wedding day hair and makeup.
Why not start a business where the salon comes to you in the comfort of your hotel suite, with mimosas and your entire entourage at your side? So that’s what she did and 11 years later, she hasn’t looked back!
When competitors started coming into her market space, she innovated yet again and started Up Dos For Us Too (www.updosforustoo.com ) which delights and entertains children with the fantasy of dressing up, princesses and tea parties.
Example # 3 – Gundalow Juice (www.gundalowjuice.com )
Founder, Dana Sicko, was tired of hearing her Clients from her personal chef business, Nutreatious (www.nutreatious.com ) complaining about disgusting flavors of cold-pressed juices and accessibility to cold-pressed juices on the east coast. So what did she do? She started her own, delicious, first ever cold-pressed juice manufacturing company right here in Baltimore.
Example #4 – Order Up (www.orderup.com )
Tired of the same old pizza, Chinese, and subs take out night after night? Confused as to how that same pizza from the same place could take 20 minutes one night and an hour and a half the next? Well Order Up solved every single complaint anyone could ever have about the take out industry. They expanded the offerings to real food from real restaurants and created an app to be able to track your driver from literally Point A to Point B.
Example #5 – Under Armour (www.UnderArmour.com)
And last but certainly not the least to Baltimore natives, Under Armour, who has completely changed the industry of athletic performance apparel.
“While playing football for the University of Maryland, founder Kevin Plank hated having to change his sweat-soaked cotton T-shirts over and over again during two-a-days. Knowing that there simply had to be something better, he set out to create a solution.
Plank named his new company Under Armour, and after extensive research on the athletic benefits of synthetic fabrics, he designed the first Under Armour HeatGear® T-shirt. Engineered with moisture-wicking performance fibers, the shirt helps keep athletes cool, dry, and light in the most brutally hot conditions.” (http://www.uabiz.com/company/history.cfm)
What a concept? Keeping athletes and exercise enthusiasts cool while sweating to death?
On behalf of myself, my friends, my Merritt Athletic Club-goers and the city of Baltimore, thank you Mr. Plank for always striving to be a “Category of One” company.
So let’s recap.
The best way to gain a competitive advantage is to eliminate the competition and become your own category of one.