Small Business Marketing Strategies – Avoid the Er Trap


Small Business Marketing Strategies – avoid the ER Trap

Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door. Do you remember that phrase? It’s attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson in the late 19th century. You know in those days it might have been true, but, today a better mousetrap is not enough. I call it the ER trap. Better, stronger, quicker, smoother, slower, healthier, prettier, nicer, faster. The ER list goes on. In today’s crazy cluttered world, ER is not enough to win in today’s marketplace. You need to be different.

Let me tell you the story about a brand that I think did a great job of being different and then had a personal effect on my life and maybe even my marriage.

I was with my son Liam, who was four at the time, and I needed to stop at the grocery store, I think it was a Thursday evening. And, you know, I have to get in and get out. So, I’ve got to get home to make dinner, so I’m kind of in a rush. So, I’m thinking, I’ll just get the basics: eggs, chicken, vodka. Then, I remember I need a new razor. So, I find myself in front of this sea of razors and I become paralyzed. Do I need four blades in a pivot head or three blades and two moisture strips? Or, maybe it’s one titanium blade with an ergonomic grip. I don’t freaking know. So, after ten minutes of talking to myself and being totally frustrated, I pick up my son, I say goodbye to my vodka, I leave my stuff in the cart, and I walk my two hairy legs right out of there. The next day, to my husband’s strong suggestion, I signed up for Dollar Shave Club. Now, every month a new razor gets delivered to my doorstep. Now, why did I do this? Because, I didn’t want to think that hard about a razor and neither do the other hundreds of thousands of other Dollar Shave Club members. What happened in that store is what I think many of us accidentally do to our customers.

We fall into the trap, we become one of a sea of options. Instead of adding value, we just add to the noise.

When we do that, we create indifference and sometimes inertia in our customers. Then, they go looking for other options. For entrepreneurs, this is particularly important, because let’s face it, we don’t have the resources or the time to fall into the ER trap. So, you’ve got to dig into what you are bringing to market and make sure you aren’t part of that ER trap and that you are truly bringing differentiated value.

For larger organizations, if you want to waste your time being one of many, because, well it’s safer, you can. But, some entrepreneur is avoiding the ER trap like the plague and before you know it they are taking your customers too. Now, I’m assuming if you’re watching this, it’s because you aren’t interested in bringing a me-too product or service to market. That you would rather do something breakthrough.

I have three questions for you to answer.

  • What do you do that is different than your competition?

You need to start with where you are today and how you think your product or service stacks up to the competition.

  • How could your competition out ER you on those points tomorrow?

So, this is where you put your differentiation to the test. It’s fascinating, with the clients that we work with we find that this is where the truth comes out and where we realize that, any one of their competition could actually out ER them tomorrow and that they’re actually not that different.

  • How can we get out of that ER trap and create differentiated value for our customers?

What can you do that will create a chasm between you and the competition? When Mike Dubin created a subscription program for razors, he created a point of differentiation that was tough for his competition to create. For the big dogs to get into the subscription business, they’d have to completely flip their business models on their head. So, how about you go answer those questions and make sure that you’re not falling into the ER trap. When you have your answers, email us, we would love to see what you’ve discovered.

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In today’s crazy cluttered world, ER is not enough to win in today’s marketplace.