With 31 years experience in the corporate business world as a marketing and branding specialist, Federal Way’s Steve Miller knows just how difficult it is for businesses to gain an edge over the competition.
In his seventh book, “Uncopyable: How to Create an Unfair Advantage Over Your Competition,” available through Amazon, Miller, who is now a consultant, speaker and author, seeks to help businesses get a leg up.
“I teach people how to be better marketers and separate themselves from the competition,” Miller said, adding that is at the center of his new book, “Uncopyable.”
Technology, he said, has changed competition in industry. While businesses and corporations used to be able to develop a new product and successfully launch it without being copied, design manufacturing has made that virtually impossible.
“Anymore, it’s really, really hard to come out with a product and have any head start over the competition,” Miller said.
As well, he said, businesses have to work harder at separating themselves from the competition. Whereas, they used to be able to rely on product design, customer service and low prices to separate themselves from the competition, but now “it’s really difficult to rely on just those three things, if not impossible.”
Miller said, now, those three things are just the “ante,” but to be successful and differentiate themselves from the competition, businesses have to provide those services as well as develop an attachment with the customer.
“Loyalty is short-lived,” he said. “It’s easily lost. So that’s why I use the word attachment.”
Miller said attachment means developing an indispensable relationship with the customer by providing something, either emotionally or financially, that they are unwilling to get elsewhere.
An example he said he frequently uses involves a famous roller coaster: Disney’s Space Mountain. He said people who have not even been to the amusement park know about Space Mountain because it is not just a roller coaster.
“Disney took a product and created a completely different experience,” Miller said.
From start to finish, when going on Space Mountain, people are presented with the experience of going to outer space, Miller said. On top of that, the setting and the environment add to the illusion that the ride is faster than others, and it has become a famous and popular ride.
“People talk about Space Mountain, and they go back again and again and again,” Miller said. “That is uncopyable.”
Furthermore, he said, the experience is so unique, that if somebody did try to re-create the product, people would easily identify it as a copy, and it would not gain the notoriety or popularity as the original.
Miller said, when a business or corporation develops an attachment with their customers, the product being sold becomes ancillary or like a souvenir.
In “Uncopyable,” Miller gives businesses tips on how to set themselves above the competition.
The first strategy involves branding, which Miller said does not mean a logo.
“It’s the promise that you are making to your customers,” he said.
The second strategy focuses on innovation. Miller said at a book signing at Poverty Bay coffee shop in Federal Way Monday, he was speaking with the owner about ways to further set the business apart. He said, when looking for new ideas, businesses easily fall in the trap of implementing strategies started by other companies of the same type, which is the wrong thing to do.
“Everybody is bench-marking each other,” he said. “There’s no innovation in copying.”
Instead, Miller said, businesses need to “go out and study aliens” or look at what companies of an entirely different sort are doing to differentiate themselves from their competition and re-purpose those strategies to suit their needs.
The third strategy Miller touches upon in his book addresses developing an uncopyable experience for customers. He said American Girl is a great example.
The company not only sells dolls from a certain time period of American history, those dolls are given back stories that are written into books based on those eras. Girls, in turn are learning about history and being presented with a positive messages about self esteem and looking forward to the future. As well, visitors to the main American Girl shop in Chicago have the opportunity to do more than buy dolls and books: They can go to a professional fashion studio and get pictures taken with their doll, which may be published on the cover of the American Doll magazine; they can visit an American Girl museum; watch American Girl musicals; go to a salon and get their ears pierced; or eat at the American Girl restaurant, during which girls are also taught lessons in etiquette. The last, however, is the most difficult, Miller said, because reservations to eat at the reservations extend to four months out.
Like Space Mountain, American Girl has created an experience for girls, Miller said.
“They don’t sell dolls any more than Harley Davidson sells motorcycles,” Miller said, adding, when someone confronted a Harley Davidson official about the negative reputation associated with motorcycle riders, the motorcycle representative said the company doesn’t sell motorcycles: It allows 45-year-old accountants to put on black leather and go out and give people the impression that they are doing bad things.
Again, Miller said, Harley Davidson is creating an experience.
If companies, big or small, incorporate his strategies when developing a business model, they can set themselves apart.
“The idea is that, in the competitive world right now, it’s a level playing field,” Miller said, adding businesses, instead, should want the market to favor them over their competition by becoming invaluable to customers.
Doing that thereby gives them an unfair advantage, and Miller said that’s not a bad thing in the corporate world.
“I love unfair advantages,” he said.
Miller said, thus far, the reception of his latest book has been positive. He said Amazon sold out of its stock the first two days, and he has other speaking and book promotion engagements planned.