For Startups – Weird is GOOD

Courtesy of Vimrod1

One of my favorite authors in the world, Seth Godin, recently came out with a new book called We Are All Weird and argues that the age of one-size-fits-all, mass marketing is done.

I couldn’t agree more with Seth.  Maybe it’s because I’m a complete weirdo myself, but I’ve been saying it for years: WEIRD is GOOD.

Weird is especially good if you are a startup and here’s why.  We’ll start with the premise that in order for your business to succeed, you need to have, as Seth would say “a remarkable” product or service.  It has to be something people want to talk about and tell their friends to try.  This is even more true with startups because as a startup you don’t have any money to spend on advertising, so if people aren’t raving about your product and getting others to try it, you’re dead in the water.

So the big question is how are you going to get people to talk about your company?  Certainly not by trying to appeal to everyone. There’s an old saying, “you can’t be all things to all people.” Because when you try to do this, you water down your product and you end up appealing to nobody.  If you go down this route (and we did at first at GiveForward) you’re heading down a path to a boring, bland, vanilla death.

On the other hand, let’s say you create a totally freaking weird-ass product that appeals to just a tiny part of the population. Perhaps, only one out of every 50 people “get” your product.  The rest of the population thinks it’s stupid or even worse, hates it. That’s perfectly okay because the 2% who “get” it, absolutely love it.  They identify with it. It tickles their soul, and it’s exactly what they are looking for.  And you know what they do?  They tell their weirdo friends who are just like them to try the product because they know their weird souls will love it too.

Here’s an example.  Let’s say you run an ice cream business and you are deciding to sell either vanilla or tequila flavored ice cream. You have a $10 marketing budget for each product line. For every $10 you spend on advertising, you can attract ten people to check out your product.

With the vanilla ice cream advertising campaign, four of the ten people that checked out your product actually purchased!  The other six people said, “meh! It’s okay, but nothing special.”   You still got four purchases and that’s pretty huge, right?  Well, not really and here’s the problem. Four people liked your  product enough to try it, but none of them loved it enough to tell their friends about it.  So with your $10, you bought yourself four purchases and that’s where the story ends. Your cost per acquisition is $2.50 for each item sold. ($10 divided by four items sold).

Now in this second scenario, you are now selling your weird-ass tequila flavored ice cream.  Let’s say that with that same $10, you can get one out of the ten people who check it out to actually purchase. The rest of the people don’t purchase. Six of the people who checked it out, don’t “get” it.  And the final three people actually hated it.  So initially your cost per acquisition is $10 ($10 divided by one item sold).  But in this case, the story doesn’t end here because that one weirdo who purchased it, loved it so much that she told her two of her weird friends who are just like her and they purchased it too.  And then those weirdos each told two of their weird friends who purchase it too.  And guess what?  One of their weird friends just happens to be an influential weirdo blogger that blogs about weird-ass ice cream flavors.  She has 1000 loyal weirdo subscribers and after she blogs about how awesome tequila ice cream is, 15% of them go out and purchase it that afternoon.  Now, let’s do the math again.  For that same $10, you now have 155 purchases. Your cost per acquisition is 6.5 cents per item sold.  Winner Winner chicken dinner!

If you are a startup without a bazillion dollar marketing budget,  weird will always win over vanilla.   The goal isn’t to create a product that tons of people like.  This will put you out of business quickly.  The goal is to create a weird product that a few people absolutely LOVE and are willing to share with their weird tribe.

It may be hard to believe that there are enough weirdos out there to buy your niche product, but trust me there are.  Have you ever sat around your Thanksgiving table and thought, “OMG, my family is freaking weird!”    Of course, you have.  We ALL have because everyone’s family is weird.  Embrace the weirdness!  The weird ones who “get” you and your product — those are your customers.


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25 thoughts on “For Startups – Weird is GOOD

  1. Ethan!
    I too am a fan of weird and agree with you completely. Stand out, shout out! I believe some of GiveForward’s stand out was your banana suit and love of burritos. These days weird may become the new normal – then what?
    Thanks for the post and good thoughts!

  2. Have you seen this? That’s for my friend Amit :/ It’s sort of up Giveforward’s alley!

  3. ethanaustin1 says:

    I actually just saw it and coincidentally I’m shooting Seth an email right as we speak. Will reach out to Amit as well. Thanks for the heads up. Hopefully we can help in some small way :)

  4. Ah nice! Yeah I kept meaning to email you/giveforward about Amit to see if there was anything y’all could do…

  5. […] I wrote in my last post that startups need to be WEIRD in order to succeed, I got several emails asking for elaboration on how exactly a company becomes […]

  6. […] been very comfortable going up to strangers.  So if you’re reading this and you’re a socially awkward weirdo like me, here’s a good trick I’ve learned over the years on how to get the most out of […]

  7. […] You share in the belief that WEIRD = GOOD […]

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