We are all impressionable to fads. Remember fidget spinners? Just a few years ago, these toys became a craze practically overnight. Forbes once called them “the must-have office toys for 2017”, and at one point they were so popular that giant corporations like Toys R Us had to airfreight tens of thousands of them to their various locations just to barely meet consumer demand. But it didn’t take long for the novelty to lose its edge.
Fidget spinners once accounted for 17 percent of online toy sales, but there’s no longer a place for them in the market. The target demographic that once begged to own a fidget spinner have moved on because they’re not considered ‘cool’ anymore.
Fads burn bright. Entrepreneurs often chase these fleeting trends because they’re guaranteed to make a quick buck. But fads don’t burn long. They’re all flash and no substance, so these endeavors are almost always short-lived. Don’t fall into the senseless cycle of building a business on the coattails of a trend knowing it will inevitably fail and you’ll have to pick up, move on to the next trend, and be doomed to repeat this pattern forever.
Be a leader in your industry, not a follower. When you start any business, you wager with your future. But when you chase fads, you put everything at risk for just a few months or — if you’re lucky — years of success. This isn’t sustainable, and it causes you to lose sight of the most important focus of your business: the value of your customers, and the value you provide to your customers.
Fads are volatile, value isn’t. Instead of chasing ephemeral success, pour your time, energy, and passion into establishing and promoting what you want your legacy to be. If you keep these two things in mind, you’ll become the industry leader that everyone else wants to emulate.
Be a problem-solver, not a copycat
Consumer buying behavior may be ever-changing and market stability may be unreliable, but value will always be important. Because entrepreneurs are esteemed for being visionaries, people believe it’s effortless for them to beget success because they can predict future trends — but trends are unpredictable.
Instead, companies become household names because their entire mission is built around providing value to their customer base. They solve a problem that exists in the market and, as a result, cement themselves as industry leaders. Apple is a great example of this.
Steve Jobs didn’t take a gamble when he created the iPhone. He knew what the industry was lacking and envisioned a smartphone device that would solve for those inadequacies. Before the iPhone was announced, there were already 22 million smartphones being sold worldwide. Nokia, BlackBerry, Motorola, and Sony Ericsson were the market leaders; Apple was the newcomer.
Everyone predicted the iPhone would flop and waited with bated breath for news of its failure. But it didn’t. It was revolutionary. Walter Mossberg wrote in The Wall Street Journal that it was “a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer … [that] sets a new bar for the smart-phone industry.” What Jobs did was deliberate and purposeful. The iPhone provided value to consumers that no other smartphone device did at the time.
If Jobs would’ve imitated what Nokia and BlackBerry were doing, they probably would’ve done well for themselves for a few months, but they wouldn’t have the 100-million person customer base they do today. But Jobs gave consumers a device that featured design and user elements they’ve never had before. The aesthetic and user-friendliness of the iPhone set a new precedence for the entire smartphone industry.
Fads can contaminate the market
Beyond being short-lived, fads can also have detrimental consequences on entire industries. I own a nutritional supplement company, which is an industry where the barrier to entry can be fairly low. For a relatively small amount of money, almost anyone can start selling products virtually overnight. And for this reason, people sometimes get into the supplement business for all the wrong reasons.
When a get-rich-quick approach to business is someone’s primary motivation and their customers are second, it leads to harrowing behaviors and actions that erode a consumer’s trust in supplements altogether.
Take what’s currently happening with the CBD craze. I have no doubt that CBD offers some compelling health benefits to individuals, but there are currently more questions than answers. Who does it help? How long until you experience benefits? How much is too much? While researchers believe CBD can curb inflammation, reduce anxiety, and relieve pain, these benefits have yet to be proven by scientific research.
Nevertheless, the “gold rush” is on and CBD is taking on many shapes and sizes. It’s in pills, gummies, cookies, beverages, skin care, food, and plenty of other products. I’ve seen it touted for almost every health concern imaginable. What troubles me is that it becomes impossible for consumers to separate fact from fiction, which could taint the market before we learn the who, what, where, when, and how of CBD.
Consumers can become jaded by initial-experiences-gone-wrong and swear off supplements forever when the problem wasn’t the supplements themselves, but the way they were marketed. I’m using CBD as an example, but this phenomenon plays out too frequently in my industry. At NatureCity, we stay true to science and only use ingredients that have been scientifically-backed by published research in peer-reviewed journals. We offer full transparency about our nutritional supplements to our customers, but all it takes is one bad egg to ruin the trust and reputability of an entire industry.
Customers should always be more valuable than your sales. Their needs should come first, and this should inform your entire company mission — from the products you create to your marketing strategy and everywhere in-between. It’s impossible to build a company without a mission, and that mission should always be providing value to your customers.
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Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books—written by men—barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.