Is Your Business A Purple Cow?


May 2003 when Seth Godin’s book The Purple Cow is published and until now, 15 years later it is still making a remarkable impact on entrepreneurs like me. Entrepreneurs who failed and looking for a better way to be better entrepreneurs, budding entrepreneurs or those who thought of becoming one and looking for inspiration may have come across this book. The time I heard of it was from one of my favorite bloggers Jodie Fox, co-founder of Shoes of Prey. I was intrigued by this Purple Cow book so I right away went to the nearest bookstore and searched for it. The book itself really is really remarkable, it speaks for itself same way as what message it is trying to convey. It is not very hard to find the color of the book is purple it did stand out from the shelf.
I read this book though it has more case studies than an explanation, the message of this book is crystal clear, we have to have a business or service that is remarkable, and this is the very essence of this book. I think this is the best entrepreneur book I have read so far. I have been trying to avoid entrepreneurship books as much as I can. Some books out on the market contain so many jargons and technicalities that makes them deterring.  The Purple Cow is a very straightforward book that tells us about the reality of having a business and how the most business fails.
How to be remarkable? How to be striking and worthy of attention? How can we stand out from the already established businesses out there? Many business owners start-up business for the sake of having to have a source of income instead of having 9-5 jobs. As long as they get money out of it then they are fine with it. Some, they will join the bandwagon and take the same road that everyone is taking, just to be on the safe side.  Being on the safe side of things is okay but there is no growth in it.
In our community, since I’m leaving in a Muslim majority country, you will see that there is a stall selling scarfs everywhere. In every corner of every block, you will see a stall of women selling scarfs. Even in the mall, you will see scarfs everywhere. I have asked some of these women as I’m really curious as to why they are selling scarfs seven though there are other dozen stalls already selling scarfs nearby. Here are the questions I have asked them and their responses as well.
Why are you selling scarfs when there other nearby stalls already selling same scarfs?
  • I’m selling these scarfs because the majority of the women here are wearing scarfs.
What is the difference between your scarfs and others’ scarfs?
  • Mine is cheaper a bit.
How’s your sale?
  • Not much profit because the competition is tough.
Why not try selling other things except scarfs since you have a lot of competition?
  • I’m scared to try because I am not sure how the women here will receive other products.
Based on my observations and conversations with some of the women selling scarfs, I find it really sad that they prefer to be on the safe side even though in reality their businesses is not a good source of income and is doom to fail. These scarfs are sold because of luck I can say. Price wise, there is no difference at all from one stall to another. Style, design, and quality are all the same on all the stalls. I now find these scarfs boring, same style, quality and design and price everywhere. Nothing is remarkable at all.
When I thought of having a shoe and bag business, the first question that popped into my head was “What do I have to offer that the already established shoe and bag brands don’t have?”. It’s a very difficult question to answer and this question is in my head for a long period of time because it required a thorough thinking, researching, and proper planning before I can answer this question. One important thing to ponder about is to have a service or product that market itself instead of having people to market it. There are several key questions we should ask ourselves before we decide what products or services we have to offer in our business.
  1. What is the difference between the services or products you offer and others?
  2. Why will I buy from you instead of others?
  3. How big is the competition?
  4. Is your target market the same as your competition’s target market?
  5. What makes you stand out in the market?
  6. How can you keep up with the competition?
Seth Godin’s message is very straight-forward, in setting up a business, we have to be remarkable. If we have a remarkable product or service offering, we don’t need to market, for the product or service will market itself.
My personal thought is that to be remarkable, we also need to be risk-takers. I think these 2 are bound to be taken seriously together. Being remarkable and unique is practically coming out of your comfort zone and standing out amongst other businesses.
Are you brave enough to sell apple in a place where everyone is selling and buying lemons for a long time? If you answered yes, then Congratulations! You are on your way to business success. Why? It’s something for you to ponder about.
Lots of love,