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Bukie Iwajomo: Warning! Entrepreneurs Do Not Fit In

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Pamela lives down the street in the brick red house. She’s the happy-go-lucky fifteen year old. Lively and hardworking, she’s mama’s helping hand. Everyone calls her Pam. Sunday evening, Maryam, her mother decides to make the family’s favorite dish. She sends Pam to go get some smoked fish from the roadside sellers.

Down the road Pam goes, eyes on the 6-inch phone in her palm as she scrolls through lines and lines of tweets on Twitter. She scans through dozens of wares littered by the roadside, trying to find the smoked fish seller’s tray among the several stained aluminium trays in the lineup even as she glances back to her phone screen now and then.

She continues down the road, yet finds no smoked fish for Maryam’s cooking. Smiling at a BBM message from Nedu, her friend, she fails to notice the smoked fish arranged in the usual manner on the regular stained aluminium tray, by her side of the road. She takes the path that leads back home, without the fish for the evening meal; never for once realizing the fish seller was right there all the while.

Who is Pam?

She is you, me and the entire occupants of this highly digitalized world.

We do not pay attention, we barely notice the things that surround us; our attention span is reducing.

The attention span of the average individual is now shorter than the notoriously ill-focused goldfish. The attention span of a goldfish is nine seconds, while that of an average human being (according to a recent study by Microsoft) is now eight seconds!

Ladies and gentlemen, dare I announce to you that no one is paying attention anymore.

No one is listening, no one is watching carefully as they cross the road, no one cares!

Guess what happened to everyone? ‘Digital’ happened.

Social media came upon us and no one cares for anything but social. The conversations have moved from face to face and over phone calls, to social chat rooms. Heck, does anyone even send text messages anymore? Well, except for the Telco’s themselves.

Subsequently, as conversations have moved online, to social media, so also the eyeballs have moved to the smartphones and other devices.

So whilst consumers are busy reading the Instagram comments on Kim Kardashian’s nude pregnant selfie, the only thing that can snap their attention and make them take notice, is something that is very (read that as extremely) interesting, remarkable, and stands out.

But there you are, the entrepreneur, trying so desperately to catch the consumer’s attention but ending up in frustration because no one seems to notice you or your products.

The reality?

The truth is, no one notices anything, anymore. We are too busy.

There are too many things fighting for our attention, and too little time to give all our attention. So there we go, day in day out, ignoring the endless distractions calling for our attention.

Consumers don’t care about you at all, they just don’t care. They’ve got way more choices than they used to, and way less time. In a world where we have too many choices and too little time, the obvious thing to do is just ignore stuff.

And what stuff gets ignored all the time? The boring stuff. The unremarkable stuff. Stuff that is just not worth talking about.

I’m sorry, but no one sees you, and nobody cares. Nobody sees the same-old candies calling out from the cashier’s desk at the grocery store checkout. No one listens to the radio jingle that drifts out of the speakers every hour. Absolutely no one gives a second glance to the banner ads that pop up on their screens.

You know why? Because they are boring. Boring products, and boring adverts about equally boring products. Unfortunately, no one gives a damn about boring anymore. Boring doesn’t count.

The danger? Boring doesn’t sell.

If you’re an entrepreneur who is interested in breaking grounds and being exceptional, then you’ve got to stop making average products for average people. Stop making boring, me-too products. Stop the copy-cat syndrome.

Here’s the situation.

All our lives, right from primary grade, we are told to fit in- be like everyone else, do what everyone is doing, don’t question authority, go to school in the same white cotton shirts and blue khaki shorts. We wear white socks like everyone else, wear black buckle shoes like everyone else, for crying out loud, we even make the same hairstyles as everyone else. Our mentality is trained to conform to status quo, to fit in with the crowd. Don’t question norms, don’t …, our creativity is limited to what obtains.

So here we are, entrepreneurs who are offshoots of the society that raised us, at ease with creating products just like all others, for people who do not care.

But we all had that one boy in college, who always got punished for being different. “Why do we have to wear white socks to school?” he questions on Monday, so on Tuesday, he comes to school in red socks. Undeterred by the ten strokes of cane he gets on his backside, next week, out of curiosity and the unstoppable yearning to be different, he will come to school with the edges of his brown khaki shorts turned up- contrary to popular opinion.

These people- the ones who refuse to fit in, are the ones who become visible. We all sit in groups in the classroom and in hushed voices, talk about the boy who dared to be different. His news goes viral.

Undoubtedly, only the businesses that are remarkable will win.

Only the entrepreneurs who dare to be different, dare to go against popular opinion, and refuse to blend in will trump.

There are too many average products to choose from, the alternative therefore, is to make something remarkable.

Marketing Guru, Seth Godin describes remarkable as “something worth talking about. Worth noticing. Exceptional. New. Interesting.” You either blend in or your stand out, you’re either boring, or worth talking about. You can choose to be invisible or have the courage to be remarkable.

Let’s talk about Pam and the smoked fish for a minute. Think about this- what if one of the fish sellers had made a different and unusual display of her fish, instead of stacking them the way others did. What if she displayed them in a neon green basket, instead of the rusty aluminium trays others had. Would Pam have noticed her? Most likely.Would she have told her mother about the seller with the neon green basket? Oh yes she would’ve.

Because doing things differently increases the likelihood that you will be noticed and talked about.

Moral of the Story? Don’t aim to cater to the masses.

Stop trying to create average products for average people, because that is the riskiest thing to do. If you run a shoe store and all you do is typical shoes to typical people at a cheap price, the minute they can get it cheaper elsewhere, your customers will leave. The best thing you can do is to make your business remarkable, stand out from the clones out there.

Remember:

Playing it safe is the riskiest strategy of all.

Take a risk and be unusual; that is the safest thing to do.

Do not be a clone of other businesses; be you, be remarkable, create a buzz!

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Mimagephotography

Bukie Iwajomo is the chief strategist at SalesForward Consulting. She works with start-ups, personal and consumers brands helping them leverage tech to grow their businesses and build badass brands. Follow her daily marketing tips on Instagram. You can also connect with her on Facebook

21 Comments

  1. Bobosteke & Lara Bian

    August 18, 2015 at 5:24 pm

    I just had this conversation last Thursday with some gentlemen. It has affected every area of our lives and business is taking a monumental hit.

    If any one is interested, watch Julian Treasures’ Tedtalk on Conscious Listening.

    Rory Sutherlands’ talks are also a must watch for anyone who has a “Pam” and is trying to catch her attention. Perception is everything.

    Thank you for this piece.

  2. leftbrained

    August 18, 2015 at 5:53 pm

    The art of listening is suppose to be incolculated into our various degree awarding inatitutions, the truth the business-sphere worldwide has shifted to digital, we have been so controlled by social media knowledge than whats going on in reality,any business that must increase its profitability must either changes tactics or loses out. Get an APP for your companies, connext real time on internet with them, etc.ts time to stop spending on billboard and diverts same resources to online marketing.

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      August 18, 2015 at 9:19 pm

      Did you spy on my next article for Thisday Law? You have voiced my words exactement!

      I like the trend I’m noticing on BN a wider range of “human relationships” are being served or maybe it has always been so and I’ m just taking notice.

      BN, heads up, my article has detoured and is making a bee-line for your inbox..

  3. Blessed

    August 18, 2015 at 7:00 pm

    Awesome reminder!

    On a lighter note,
    Pams own is good naww, shey it is that she didnt see the smoked fishes them, thats not too bad naww. What of me that my mum sent to buy AKAMU for the AKARA that she was frying at home. i got to the woman( she sells akara and akamu) and bought akara for my mother!

    my mother scraped the money for that akamu and so we had to return it but you know how returning cooked food is naww. they will say you “haff puttin winch” inside so my mum escorted me.

    i was crying and begging my mum that we should not go but she said never and told me not to worry that the woman will take it. i was not crying because i was afraid of the woman but because i don chop from the akara when i buy.

    Lets just say no be only akara i chop that day!

    Lest i forget, Bobosteke & Lara Bian brought me to this article. i saw on the homepage that she commented and i was like” it will be good” and it was! Bobo, chopping the knuckles ehh 😀

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      August 18, 2015 at 9:24 pm

      Whaddaya know? Great knuckles think alike!

    • Funmilola

      August 18, 2015 at 10:22 pm

      Me too o,bobosteke and lara bian made me read and the article is great!
      Dear bobosteke,this your name ehn…..

    • Bobosteke & Lara Bian

      August 19, 2015 at 12:10 pm

      As in eh, the thing tire me sef. When I first put it up; it was on a whim. Now I’m stuck with it.
      Thank you: It’s touching that my commenting mean so much. have a great day.

    • kiki

      August 19, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      LOL “Haff putin winch inside”

  4. Yue.

    August 18, 2015 at 7:20 pm

    How “Kim’s nude selfie” affects this post. I don’t know! Really, What Impression are You making,writer? Couldn’t you find something more catchy than that? Wow. Just Wow!

  5. Axelle

    August 18, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    So only entrepreneurs dare to be different? If so, why is it that the only ‘innovative’ thing anyone is able to come up thèse days with is an app? What is so new and so refreshing about an app that might not even be accessible to a majority of the target market market or a majority too busy to notice or even use it? Using your example, I do not care if your fish is in a neon green basket or an aluminium tray, i will buy fish that is fresh, clean and affordable from someone who respects me as a customer regardless of my economic class. Furthermore, what do you mean by ‘don’t aim to cater to the masses’? I am afraid this is the mentality that is killing the grass root economy. So, some people can be too ‘average’ to consume high quality products? I am not saying that manufacturers should compromise on quality, I am only saying that it is possible to provide products that have relatively high quality and do not cost a fortune. I am saying that réal entrepreneurs should aim to cater to the masses provided they consist of their target market. Of course, there will always be those at the top of the ladder who want custom-made high-end products and yes, their needs should be met but the market is for everyone. If all entrepreneurs decide to serve only those who can afford their high-end services, who will serve those who can’t? Who will aim to cater for the masses? Or are entrepreneurs who cater only to the masses not ‘different’ enough because everyone is too busy ‘aiming not to cater to the masses’? What is it with this idea that entrepreneurship has to be fundamentally about wealth creation and wealth expansion? Entrepreneurship is about creating need-based solutions in order to improve quality of life of people generally and when one is doing this, he is already remarkable and people will notice and listen and participate.

    PS: I am sorry for the long epistle and the typos. I am typing with a french keyboard and the autocorrect is crazy.

    • Matt

      August 20, 2015 at 6:15 am

      Axelle,I think the writer is referring to entrepreneurs and people who are more ambitious than the average man. If an entrepreneur does not have the goal eventually conducting business on a global scale for example or achieving Dangote’s status as an entrepreneur, then it is fine if they do not dare to stand out or be different, This situation is similar to attending school, some people are happy with a few As and Bs while others want all As. The people who want all As are the ones who go on to be creative and innovative entrepreneurs.

  6. Dr. N

    August 18, 2015 at 8:33 pm

    Nodding as I read. Right on d money

  7. nunulicious

    August 18, 2015 at 8:36 pm

    thank you for this!

  8. Babs

    August 18, 2015 at 8:51 pm

    Good one….you sound like a dyed in the wool strategist..you might be able to give me nice tips 🙂

  9. lynette

    August 19, 2015 at 9:40 am

    I am sorry but you are not very OBJECTIVE my dear….you yourself need to go back to the drawing board.
    You definitely have the idea that many businesses copy others based on the fact that its easier to start something tested by others already….but then, you are not giving any solid perspectives other than the ordinary and very obvious….

    Why would you say ‘”don’t cater to the masses” …are you for real…..even most of the so called luxury products are mass products elsewhere, because NIGERIA for example is a MASS country….still growing ….take for example ardell lashes is mass market in Europe, USA and other developed economy but it is somewhat luxury in Nigeria. (i could mention a list but I am not about to give them free promotion)

    My dear, there is such a thing as PROCESS INNOVATION….you can take an already existing product or service and innovate the process of giving value to your target market…..where target market could be even the masses ( not by putting it NEON GREEN TRAY)

    Amazon.com was copied by 2 well know companies in Nigeria and came at a time they were much needed, and did something unique….Pay on delivery, or picking up at fulfillment centers closeby for those leaving in hard to read areas. This is the Nigerian content of their copycat business.

    Now if any company wants to copy these 2 nigerian online retailers, they need to bring on something thats totally missing from this 2 and that will make life even more comfortable.

    I
    Anyways, I like that you are using BN to develop your writing skills (which you still need a lot of work on too), but I suggest a Marketing or Business course that will really teach you what you need to be able to call yourself a Consultant. (That my constructive critic of your article).

    Way to go anyways!

  10. Modupe

    August 19, 2015 at 11:14 am

    Na wa oh! Naija strategist! Weak points, watered down read a book off the shelf info.

    Naija’s masses make up 99% of the population! If you are not making for them, you never hammer! Ask why dangote is successful! Mass products, stack them high sell them cheap… Volume ( mass production), reduces your unit cost and drives up revenue.

    Mass products can be high quality, attention grabbing too.

    Name one luxuty product/brand that has hammered in naija, targetting the 1% rich folks. I am taking out hammer that will last
    Multiple generations, not money to buy 10houses in ikoyi and owner dies, kids become landlords.

    • Annienonymous

      August 19, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      @Modupe GBAM!!! Your head dey dia!!

  11. Oyindee

    August 19, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Gbam!

  12. Anu Shode

    August 19, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    Lynette and modupe….thank you !

    Bellanaija should pls watch they post….not every aki and paw paw with a write up.

  13. Ogal

    August 20, 2015 at 3:40 pm

    lynette and modupe. on point. most nigerians are even the masses, forget the glitz and glamour…

  14. Emeka Gift

    August 25, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    Supernatural words of wisdom and clarity to the dumbness and invisibility of things around us. Thanks so much! great post, great content. I never thought there will be someone some where to say things that is a problem in the marketing world. Thanks for the story, You have made my day.

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