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What's your Big Zig?

What's your Big Zig?

March 23, 2008

What makes you different from the competition? What makes you stand out and say, 'I'm not like all the rest and here's why!'? What makes your product or service unique?

Your Big Zig is the single biggest thing that differentiates you from the rest. In other words, while everyone else is zagging, you should be zigging.

I find it's more important than ever today to have a Big Zig because we live in an age of advertising resistance. The average consumer can't go through the day without seeing 3,500 commercial messages whether it's billboards, TV ads, newspaper ads, radio commercials or even signs on telephone poles. We're used to filtering most of the messages out. So you need to make your offer radically different from everything else in your industry.

That's one of the things I love about one of my companies, Lumpy Mail (www.LumpyMail.com). While all the other marketing companies were talking about copywriting and messaging (both of which are important), I decided to create a Big Zig around the packaging business owners could use in their direct marketing. By creating unique packages, such as sending a message in a bottle, an offer in a miniature trash can or just adding a pen or report in an envelope, the 'lumpy' packaging stood out. It stood out as a brand, but just as importantly it stood out among customers' clients who saw their response rates double compared to traditional mail. We've done some outrageous promotions as a result. Many people know us today as the guy who mailed the watermelon!

Increase your chance of success 370%

Now that's a Big Zig. How important is your Big Zig? Of course the Harvard Business Review doesn't use my clever terms, but the journal does say you have a 370% higher chance of being successful if you have something that differentiates you from the competition.

Another study found that companies with a low zig have only a 14% chance of being successful. Companies with a medium zig have a 40% chance of success, but those with a Big Zig have a 53% probability of success. In other words, the bigger zig ' the more you can differentiate yourself from your competitors ' the more likely you are to be successful.

IMPORTANT: Your Big Zig should be dramatically different from what's already being offered. Incremental improvements won't cut it. They never produce the dramatic bottom line growth and profits that a Big Zig can generate.

A terrific book I recommend is 'Blue Ocean Strategy' by Cham Kim and Renee Mauborgne, which illustrates my Big Zig approach to doing business very well. Instead of competing in the 'red, bloodied' waters of your market, they suggest you find attractive 'blue' oceans where there is little or no competition.

Your Big Zig will not only differentiate you in the market, but will radically alter the playing field. You can then decide where and when you want to compete. It gives power and control back to you.

Challenge the bedrock assumptions in your industry! Where is everyone else zagging? Where can you zig?

QB House is a terrific example of a company that found its Big Zig in Japan. QB stands for Quick Beauty and their mission is to provide fast, good-looking haircuts. To understand the Big Zig you have to understand that in Japan, the haircutting industry focuses more on the emotional aspects of quality and care in a haircut in which they often give their customers hot towels, shoulder rubs and tea. A routine haircut can turn into an hour-long ritual.

Instead, QB House looked at the market from a very different perspective and took a no-nonsense, practical approach. They eliminated all the extras and now offer a quick, 10-minute haircut. They are much more efficient as a result, and they can charge 20%-30% less than mainstream shops and they earn a greater profit. The idea has caught on, and now more hair salons are offering no-frills haircuts and debunking the myth that a beautiful haircut can't be done cheaply and quickly.

The Big Zig Wizard - 4 Questions to Ask

  1. What's the biggest challenge facing your prospects right now?
  2. What's the conventional wisdom about the best way to solve it?
  3. What would be opposite of the conventional wisdom? (For example, if conventional wisdom says consumers should spend less, the opposite solution would be to spend more).
  4. How can you turn that 'opposite solution' into a Big Zig that meets the needs of your readers. (In the Lumpy Mail example, the opposite solution is to spend slightly more on the packaging in your marketing to make it stand out and double your response).