Business owners often say to me they operate in a commoditised market and that they have little influence over the price they ask or the features they offer.

In my experience this is mostly not an accurate assessment of market conditions.

Operating in a truly commoditised market is the opposite of a monopolised market, but both take a lot of responsibility out of the hands of the business owner.

They make for easy answers, such as:

  • In a monopolised market, you can’t participate because one supplier owns all of the market with no room for new entrants. So even if you dream of entering this type of market the easy answer is “sorry, you can’t – so don’t even try“.

  • With a commoditised market you can enter whenever you like but you are at the mercy of the market. Price and quality is determined and all you need to do is supply the product. In this case the easy answer is “come join us, but don’t try and be funny

These easy answers are appealing to the business owner already drowning in tough decisions. What a relief then not to have to think over the price you offer – just make it low; or the service you render – just make it good enough.

But here’s the thing:

In most cases you are throwing away rich profits and severely limiting growth for believing the market is commoditised. In reality it may only resemble the characteristics of commoditisation since no one has tested the waters.

In my dealings with businesses I find that many of them hand all the power to the customer on a platter by not investing in brand building. They don’t differentiate their offering in the minds of the customer through smart marketing that demands deeper customer understanding, highlight subtle differences and create loyalty.

The result is that these businesses willingly surrender to a form of self inflicted commoditisation. They are not putting in the marketing hard yards and are suffering for it, such as:

  • The customer refuses to pay a premium

  • All the offerings in the market appear the same

  • They get bullied: “If I can’t get it from you…I’ll get it from someone else”

  • Customer tantrums are the order of the day, and usually succeed

  • Sales reps rely purely on discounts to drive volumes

  • If this is your business environment, I believe it is time to revaluate your approach critically. It might be time to add a secret weapon to your armour: marketing.

    Not the kind of marketing that is about pretty pictures, nice colours or a couple of hot promotors (guys or girls!) at your next function. Rather, the kind of scientific marketing that relies on real data to unearth real market insights that can be used to make your businesses stand out from the crowd.

    When done well, marketing allows for the seemingly impossible: turning a commoditised environment into a monopolised one where you are the only one feasting at the table with the rest of your competitors relying on leftovers that sell only at a discount.


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