Are You an Elephant or a Zebra?

A Business Lesson from the Animal Kingdom

By Alli Hill

An elephant and a zebra stand by side in the same field eating the same type of grass:  which one has more of a competitive advantage?

If you said "elephant," you probably didn't think outside the box much.  Sure, the elephant owns the obvious advantage over the zebra in terms of size, but the zebra clearly dominates the elephant on speed (elephants max out at 15 mph, while a zebra can reach 40 mph).

If every species could run the same speed, grow to the same height, or roar at the same volume, the food chain would look a lot different than it does.  Who would feast, and who would famish?

Size, speed, appearance, and loudness set the stage for survival:  the cheetah's speed and agility trumps the competition.  A gorilla can fend off potential competition through brute communication.  The zebra's stripes make it distinguishable from other animals, plus it can outrun some of its larger co-habitators.

But even though the elephant will never achieve the top speed of the zebra, nor will the zebra ever acquire the height and heft of the elephant, they each recognize their ace-in-the-hole and know how to play it.

So what trump cards does your business hold?

You might resemble the elephant, with the largest store in your area, the most employees to serve your customers, or the biggest product line in your market.  You might emulate the cheetah, who provides faster counter and delivery service than any other supplier in a 50-mile radius, guaranteed.  Or you might look like the zebra, who has done so well at branding no one could possible mistake your business for any other.

Identify what your business does well, and make sure you talk about it.   Remind your customers on-hold why they chose to do business with you, and why they should continue.  Build every ounce of your marketing around those competitive advantages, and communicate them in all your actions.

And don't forget to take a look at your weaknesses and see if you can turn them around to your advantage.  For example, don't look at putting customers on hold as bad-for-business.  Instead, utilize valuable hold time to talk about your business, your products, your services, and watch your customer relationships grow stronger.

Remember, it usually takes around 14 impressions to make an idea stick, so keep going, stay patient and remain consistent - word will travel.