How to Make Your Business Fail

As you drive into the tourist town of Garden City, Utah, on the banks of Bear Lake, you’re met with a lovely site. Home Town Drive-In proudly displays its famed recipe: Raspberry Shakes. Famous? Gee, I might have to get one of those!


Next door, LaBeau’s. What do you know, they’re also known for their “famous” raspberry shakes. What an adorable little cross-street rivalry.


But then, things start to get weird. Quick and Tasty, the little shack a few doors down, is also claiming to be the home to Bear Lake’s famous raspberry shakes. How can this be?

Down the road, two other places are claiming to house Bear Lake’s famous raspberry shakes. They’ve dedicated their entire roofs to telling people .

One of them has even printed it on a wagon.

By my count, SEVEN of Bear Lake’s diners, all within a block of each other, are using “Famous Raspberry Shakes” as their #1 marketing ploy. And all seven of the diners are painted red.

The entrepreneur inside of me wanted to scream like a girl.

Put up a big sign about a free samples, paint your shack purple, change your slogan to “raspberry shakes from your nightmares”, be the one place that claims to have the best Blackberry Shake, back up your “Famous” claim with video testimonials and blown-up newspapers plastered to your walls, start selling malts instead of shakes, dress your employees in raspberry-colored clown suits. Do something! Heck, promote your vanilla if you have to. Because the only thing that you’re convincing me of right now is that 6 of you are liars.

The businesses that succeed are the ones that differentiate. Yes, there will be zombies who buy into the “famous raspberry shakes” ploy and pick a diner at random, but in the long run your brain-dead tactics will only get you 1/7th of the traffic and a Disneyland fast-pass to bankruptcy.

I’m talking to you generic-looking hotels, official-looking banks, grungy-looking car places, standard looking e-commerce sites, franchised and floor-planned fast food places, and professional-looking dentists offices. You all look the same. In every highway-exit cookie cutter shopping center you all look the same. You all cost the same, you all offer the same things, you all have boring websites, and now in 2014 you all suck at running your “check the box” twitter and facebook accounts.

As these companies can attest, when you do things differently you win.

The power of differentiation doesn’t just apply to businesses. It applies to your resume, to your LinkedIn page, to your social interactions, to your web presence, to your homework, to the way you respond to “how are you”, and to the decisions you make about your career and the way that you choose to market yourself.

When you differentiate, people notice. They give you jobs. They go out with you. They hand you their money. Just because of the little jolt of realness that you give them when they see that you’re different.

You may be wondering how the Raspberry Shake story ends.

On my way out of town I gave my business to the only blue diner on the street. Zipz.

The slogan they chose to hang outside on a big wooden board:

“Least Famous Shakes.” 

4 Responses

  1. Vern Richardson
    | Reply

    Was the shake good at Zipz?

  2. Travis Hancock
    | Reply

    Yeah, we actually did a taste test with several of the shops, and we liked the Zipz shakes the best. The Raspberry was good. On our way out Holly and I got a Nutella shake with brownie chunks. It was perfect!

  3. College Entrepreneur Inc.
    | Reply

    The last one was pretty different. Ironically.

  4. Ryan Adkins
    | Reply

    Love it! This is so true, I guess they all believe in the adage “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.” I think the idea today is if you don’t break the cycle, someone else will first and you will be out of business. Blockbuster anyone?

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