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Has Your Startup Fallen Victim to “Me Too” Syndrome?

There’s a virus spreading around, and not just here in the valley, it’s been spotted in Seattle, New York, Boston, and all across the country. The scientific classification… I’m not sure, but I’m calling it me too syndrome.

Never heard of it? It’s when a startup gives up on innovation, throws in the towel on creative thinking, and says “me too” to whatever everyone else is doing. If unchecked for too long the side effects become nearly irreversible.

Symptoms to watch out for

Do you find yourself not just watching the competition, but excessively imitating their every move?

Competitor A has a Pinterest account –  quick! let’s create one, spend hours every week pinning random garbage, and soon we’ll be just as awesome.

Competitor B has an iPhone, iPad, Facebook, (insert name of platform here) app – quick! let’s pay a freelance developer $1000 to build one so we can seize the opportunity.

Competitor C has X amount of inbound links, Twitter followers, or positive reviews – quick! let’s make it a top priority to have just as much, if not more.

Competitor D is blogging 5 times a week and has just released an incredible infographic – quick! let’s work 20 extra hours a week, stock up on energy drinks, ignore our families, and try and do the same.

Treatment

Warning: Treating me too syndrome isn’t always easy, especially if an ignorant coworker / founder is calling the shots, however if you catch it early enough it *might* be curable.

Step 1. Get back to your unique value proposition

What makes you unique? What does your startup do that nobody else can, or in what way are you different than all of the competition? Is it outstanding customer service, or incredible value for the price? Maybe it’s minimal design or a compelling, feels good, giving back to the world type of mantra. Whatever it is, narrow in on it and let it guide you on what to do next.

Step 2. Advocate for quality

It doesn’t matter what marketing campaign or big branding move you want to pull if it ends up bombing. Take some time, have a plan, and execute to your teams fullest capabilities. If this means spending a couple thousand (thousands, not hundreds) on a whitepaper, then so be it. If this means working with some fresh talent to better express your ideas, then so be it. Make sure that whatever you do, be it small or big, is of high quality.

Step 3. Stop copying the giants

Airbnb can work up plenty of jaw dropping marketing initiatives, because well… they’ve got a super talented staff and over 100 million in funding to pull from. You and me though, our startups are just babies (maybe not, but probably). The game is much different. To stand out you can’t just simply copy the competition, it’s not going to be enough. Stick to what works, but never be afraid to experiment with new tactics.

Always play to win

Saying me too is a giveaway that you’re following and not leading. Playing for 2nd or 3rd or the N’th position in a crowded market can still be rewarding, but there’s nothing like being out front. If you’re not playing to win, it’s likely that you’re not going to.

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