Most business advice teaches you to copy the success of others, following the model great entrepreneurs use to lead their industry. The trouble with that advice is it causes you to be a stereotype business instead of an archetype business.
Stereotype: A set form, conventional. A simplified and standardized conception.
Archetype: An original pattern from which all of the same kind are copied.
Stereotype businesses are like those characters in a badly written movie whose actions you can easily predict. In business, predictable means undifferentiated. That's not always bad and it doesn't mean you can't be a profitable business. It just means that you are susceptible to market conditions and you will never lead in a pack of commodity businesses.
On the other hand, a common trait of archetype businesses is “variability” or irregularity. That’s good in business because variability is what people notice. When customers try to make purchase decisions in a sea of lookalike businesses, the “variable,” or irregular, businesses are the ones that get noticed. The ones that look like everyone else, the regular businesses, get lost in the crowd.
Facebook is the archetype social media network. Approximately 51 percent of the U.S. population has a Facebook account. They are the leader and they are being chased by Google with their Google+ product. Google+ is trying to be an archetype, but they are chasing Facebook, trying to steal market share and be a “Facebook killer.” Trying to be a “whatever” killer is the sure sign of a stereotype.
For example, the iPad is the archetype. Each new Android tablet from Google is declared to be the “iPad Killer.” Yet the iPad still lives and thrives. The stereotype Google tablet continues to fruitlessly chase the iPad.
To avoid being a stereotype business, first make a list of everything that is expected from your type of business in your industry. Then eliminate as many of those items as you can — those that are neither critical to the success of your business or those that don’t add quantifiable value to your business.
Now you are ready to transform your business into an archetype. That means getting in touch with yourself and tapping your entrepreneurial spirit. Your entrepreneurial soul is unique and therefore your business should be, too. Each person is a unique blend of personality, values and habits. What are the things that make you unique as an entrepreneur? Rather than copy those things from other entrepreneurs, apply yours to your business to create something new.
Small business owners often shun their own unique characteristics and personality traits in favor of an industry template. That’s a shame. You are a unique archetype, not a copy. It’s time to trash the templates.
How do you know if your business is an archetype? You don’t fit neatly into any category. You do stuff that other businesses are afraid to do. You get copied, and you get chased.
Are you chasing or being chased?
Stereotype businesses do the chasing, archetype businesses get chased.
Jay Ehret is founder and dean of marketing know-how at TheMarketingSpot.com, a marketing education resource center for entrepreneurs and small business owners.