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What Business Are You In?

What business are you in? What industry are you in? With all of the disruption and innovation going on in practically every industry, you can’t afford not to closely examine your answer to these questions. Marketing myopia is real, and here’s how it affects every business, no matter their size or industry. 

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This morning, the question I want you to consider is: what business are you in? That might be a bit of an odd question, but I don’t mean what your business name is. Usually, this question can also be restructured as: what industry are you in? I promise that it’s not as easy of a question as it sounds. 


Marketing Myopia 

So today we’re going to be talking about marketing myopia. Myopia is the term for nearsightedness. Marketing nearsightedness or business myopia may also be a good term for this. 

The Railroad Industry’s Downfall 

The classic example is the railroad industry. Basically, they thought they were in the railroad industry or the industry of transporting people via trains. 

But one of those definitions was the key to their downfall. For the most part, the majority of those companies weren’t in the railroad or train industry. They were in the transportation industry. 

If they had positioned their businesses as such, they could have easily invested in other modes of transportation. This is because they wouldn’t have been a train company, but rather a transportation company. That wouldn’t have been odd at all. 

Amazon vs. Banks

Business myopia also keeps companies from being creative and innovative. Why? Because you’re focused on the way that you and your competitors do things. While you may iterate and make certain things better, you’re not necessarily looking for brand new ways to achieve your goals. 

The perfect example of this is banks and Amazon. Amazon has positioned itself to be able to provide loans to small businesses, further integrating themselves into these small business operations. 

Obviously, this is fantastic news for the small businesses who sell through Amazon. Not only does Amazon have the marketplace, but they also have the logistics to function as a 3PL for these businesses. And now, they want to be able to offer small business loans to these companies. 

Banks haven’t necessarily changed the way that they do things. Obviously there’s a reason why they do things the way they do, but they haven’t looked at it the same way Amazon does. 

The Blade and Razor Analogy

I was reading an article on HBR and they were talking about the blade and the razor. The blade is like your primary business mechanism, and the razor is anything that you do to add to the effectiveness of your blade. 

In this case, when banks give out loans, that’s the blades. For Amazon, it’s the razor. Amazon doesn’t even have to be perfect to make it successful. 

Amazon vs. Tech Companies

Another example would be tech companies and Amazon. I know; it always comes back to Amazon. The reason is that Amazon doesn’t appear to have myopia at all. 

Tech companies weren’t regarding Amazon as a serious competitor. However, now Amazon is competing for one of the biggest tech government contracts the United States has ever had! It’s a $10 billion contract for cloud-focused services and products. Amazon has just a couple of competitors left, at this point. 

Amazon vs. Logistics Companies

Another one is logistics companies and Amazon. Logistics companies keep saying the Amazon is not a competitor, and I guess that’s what they feel like pretending. But what we’re looking at is Amazon adding another razor to make the blade of their business more effective. 

What Is Amazon’s Industry?

Their industry is basically customer happiness and satisfaction. That’s what we’re seeing. You could see it in Amazon’s publishing, their ownership of Audible, eBooks, the Amazon Marketplace and Amazon Prime. On top of that, they also create all of their content. 

They’re basically in the industry of customer happiness, and the rest of these businesses need to catch up. You have to shift your focus to how you can best serve your customers. 

Web Design and Mobile App Design

When you look at web design, it’s huge. But mobile app design is also big. Now, businesses that wouldn’t have considered having a mobile app just a few years ago, feel like it’s critical to have a mobile app. 

So if you’re a web design company and you only do web design, that may work out for you in the way that being a specialist can work out for you. But if your business is creating portals through which customers and businesses can interact, then mobile app design would not be a reach at all. 

Through the Lens of Your Ideology and Values

You have to focus on how you can best serve your customer, and pair that with an examination of your ideology and values. 

We talked about discovering your ideology, values, and purpose midway through season 2. When you examine your business through the lens of your ideology and values, new opportunities become apparent and present themselves to you. As long as you have your business blinders off, it allows you to look outside your business and industry, and see what the possibilities are. 

So my business is structured around content, currently primarily written content, but we’re seeing the increase in podcasts and video. I intend on defying the status quo and keeping up. 

Amazon as a Source of Business Myopia

I just want to add a caveat to this entire episode just because I brought up Amazon. Oftentimes, Amazon causes business or marketing myopia in and of itself. This is because companies sometimes think, “Oh well, how can I ever compete with Amazon?” 

You’re not going to be able to compete with them if you’re a small business or even a decently-sized business. You’re probably not going to be able to compete with Amazon in terms of logistics or same-day shipping. You’re probably not going to be able to achieve that without great cost to yourself. 

It’s not always about that. I was speaking with a business owner about this particular issue: how do you compete with Amazon? Well, it’s not about competing with them, but rather how you can differentiate yourself from Amazon. 

How Arbor Teas Won Me over

I order my tea from Arbor Teas. They offer me organic and Fair Trade Certified tea.  I could probably find that on Amazon, but when I get the package in the mail, all of it is compostable and I always get a handwritten, signed note thanking me for my business. 

It makes me feel really good as an individual. I understand what their mission is and how their business functions, which lines up with my values as an individual and business. 

That’s something that Arbor Teas offers me that Amazon can’t. At least not at their size. Arbor Teas isn’t necessarily super scalable, but the fact that the handwritten note is not automated means something to me. It makes me feel valued as a customer. 

So how can you add value for your customers, or make them feel valued in ways that Amazon can’t? That is how you compete with Amazon.