Tag Archives: Sales

Is Originality Overrated? The Race for Second Place

In the quest for competitive advantages, we often strive to find the novel idea that will set us apart, thus propelling us to the top of the food chain. While this is a worthy endeavor, is success bequeathed upon innovators? Internality it may feel rewarding to create something new, but is originality actually rewarded?

Last week, Facebook announced a new function, Facebook Camera. This “innovative” feature will allow users to post photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours. Users will also have the ability to add filters and fun overlays to the pics. If this sounds familiar, it may be because Facebook introduced something similar on Facebook Messenger (Messenger Day), WhatsApp (Status), and Instagram (Stories), not to mention there’s another social networking site, Snapchat, which does exactly what these four Facebook-owned products do. In fact, Mike Murray, a reporter at Quartz, points out that Facebook’s five most recent product announcements are eerily similar to designs from other companies.

  • Facebook Camera = Snapchat
  • “Live location” in Messenger = “Sharing your location” in Apple’s Messages
  • Reactions and Mentions in Messenger = Reactions and @-mentions on Slack
  • Streaming videogames live = Twitch
  • Messenger Day = Snapchat

We can judge Facebook for repackaging past ideas, but considering they have two billion monthly users and generated $9 billion in revenue last quarter, maybe we need to judge ourselves for being so reliant on uniqueness. Just look at the movie industry.

Movie studios have grown resistant to new concepts that require a large investment. Instead, they are opting for sequels, remakes, and reboots that already have brand recognition. Why gamble with unknown actors playing unknown characters in an unknown story when you can develop a live action Beauty and the Beast, a re-imagined Spider-Man, or a continuation of Pitch Perfect (all of which I intend to see).

The plethora of movie sequels clogging the multiplex can make you feel as though your life were stuck on spin cycle. But if the movies don’t change, we do, and that’s a blessing.—Joshua David Stein

It’s a simple sales theory: Selling something original is much more difficult than selling something that’s familiar. Different, in itself, is not a selling point. People need to be able to relate what you are peddling to what they already know; otherwise you are in the defensive position of convincing, not promoting.

As much as we need new ideas, in Innovator’s Dilemma, Clayton Christensen makes note that the “new and exciting” companies that disrupt their industry are founded by ex-employees of the “traditional” companies. These individuals did not attain success by creating something from scratch; their “originality” emerged from the idea that they could do it better, not brand new. They did the groundwork at the previous company—experiencing the necessary trial and error, thought experiments, and systems planning—and were able to implement in the new environment.

We all want to be innovators, and I’m not suggesting we abandon this endeavor. However, innovation does not require re-invention. There is something to be said for not consistently creating the wheel. It’s why we study best practices and scrutinize over our competition’s lessons learned. Plus, it lowers risk and is cheaper than paying for mistakes. Let others discover the potholes; we can follow their lead, enhance it, and make it our own.

In the end, there may be self-satisfaction in saying we thought of it first, but think of how self-satisfied you can feel by thinking of it second while enjoying the riches of victory? After all, you are trying to lead your team to long-term success, not win a first-place ribbon.

Alyssa Milano’s Three Leadership Lessons

Alyssa MilanoWhen you think about sportswear, what is your first thought? If you did not think about Alyssa Milano, it is time to change your mindset.

You know Alyssa Milano from such shows as Who’s the Boss? and Charmed. What you may not realize is that she is also a leader in sportswear geared towards female fans. It all started at a Dodgers game. Milano was cold so she went into the stadium shop to find a sweatshirt. When she walked in, she couldn’t find any women’s clothing that wasn’t pink.

And I’m really offended by the pink, being a huge sports fan. I just didn’t understand why there was nothing in the team colors and everything looked like the cuts were cut for kids.

Milano didn’t buy anything that day. Instead she founded a company called Touch that specializes in licensed fan apparel that is flattering for a woman’s body – clothing made by a woman for women with nothing pink. Ten years later, she is leading one of the most successful clothing lines in sports. How did an actress with no prior experience make the shift into sportswear? Here are three leadership lessons that can benefit all of us.

Sell It Yourself

To pitch her clothing line, Milano hit the road.

That first year, I went with G-III [Apparel Group] to every stadium, to every sales meeting, because I felt like I didn’t want a sales man representing what the line was about.

Once you come up with a great idea, it is unwise to rely on others to pitch it for you…especially in its infancy stages. No one understands your product, intent, or objective like you do. So don’t sit back and let others interpret your thoughts. Cut out the middle man and be the front lines.

Remain Current

It would be easy for Milano to create a line of clothing and relax. After all, the logos of sports teams don’t change from year to year. But Milano is smart; she is preparing for the other companies that are ready to pounce on her great idea.

So to me, we are always staying a step ahead of what these corporations are doing as far as fan apparel.

She does this by remaining up-to-date on fashion trends. Milano is regularly experimenting with different fabrics, updating the styles and cuts of the clothing based on what’s in vogue, and remaining vigilant for potential encroachment. Leaders must also remain educated on current trends and anticipate change before it occurs. While this can be time consuming, it is a core component in how leadership provides value.

Make It Bigger Than You

For Milano, creating her company was more than having a non-pink Dodgers hoodie or earning a huge profit.

My mission was for other people to embrace what we were doing. It wasn’t just about me. I was fighting for females who love sports. That was super vital to me, that we had a voice and that people were listening because we made up half the audience.

Leadership involves inspiring others to act for a “greater good.” To do this, you need a mission statement. Not a bunch of words to hang in the conference room, but a real goal that motivates people to follow you. Think big.