Are you too different?

Entrepreneurship is, by nature, a risky business.  That’s why many people choose not to do it. But there are many things you can do to minimise your risks and maximise your chance of success.

In this blog, I would like to address this issue: is your product or service too different from what people are used to?

A lot of foreign entrepreneurs in Finland highlight the fact that they’re different to Finns and promote themselves in this way. Then they wonder why their product or service doesn’t sell. Some claim that the Finns are racist, xenophobic, or otherwise prejudiced against foreigners. Unfortunately, these phenomena exist, but I don’t think they’re always the reasons why Finnish customers don’t buy from foreign-born entrepreneurs.

So, let’s forget for a moment that foreign entrepreneurs are foreign.

Culture and traditions create the conformity that allows people to live in harmony. Societies can’t exist without rules.When everyone is doing the same thing, they all know what they are supposed to do, what they should expect, and that they all hold roughly the same values. This is essential to some extent – a society without a formal set of rules (laws), is chaos, and nobody wants to live in such a state of anarchy. There have to be some shared guidelines, or it falls apart.

However, a society won’t develop much without new ideas, new concepts and new ways of thinking – in other words, innovation.  Therefore, diversity is valuable, and probably the new idea in your product or service has great value, if only people would take notice of it. But people are naturally resistant to change. Innovation brings change and disruption of conformity. Even if your idea obviously makes things better, people can still be against it.

So, when entrepreneurs underline the fact that they’re different, it can turn customers off. It’s important to explain the benefits of your innovation by making links between your idea and what exists now. Something that is too different will create fear, because people are scared of what they don’t know. Explaining your new ideas using something that is familiar will reduce fears and build trust. People who trust you are far more willing to go along with your new ideas, and maybe even become your customers.

One way to do this is through analogies. These are comparisons that contain the essence of the new idea in the framework of a familiar idea. For example, when motor vehicles were introduced at the start of the twentieth century, people were scared of this new technology. But the “horseless carriage” soon caught on and eventually became a “car”. We still measure engine force in horsepower. When the Internet was expanding in the 1990s, it was often called “the information superhighway” because computers were intimidating to many people who were not computer scientists, but everyone knew what information and a highway were.

So, the question is: “How can I present myself and my product or service in a relatable way?”

Once your customers can relate to you because you’ve used what they know already to explain your ideas, you can then build their interest in your product by showing what benefits it brings them.