Eddie Mugulusi, Founder at Fab Creations.

At the start of this year, a young man filled with entrepreneurial passion reached out to me for an appointment. He was in the process of starting a business venture and needed some guidance. When I met with him he said he wanted to start a business producing laundry soap. He explained that he had gained technical knowledge in soap making and that he even had a winning formula in this regard. He was confident that he could make a good product that people would love. So the purpose of reaching out to me was to find out what I thought of his idea from a marketing point of view.

To begin with I acknowledged that laundry soap is a must have for all households in Uganda. So there was already a market for it which was a good thing. I then asked which laundry soap brands on the market he was familiar with to which he quickly pointed out more than eight of them. At this point my interest was to find out how his soap was going to be different. So I asked, “How are you going to compete with the big brands? How will your soap standout?”

If you are taking a “me too” product/service to market, you have to make sure you have a competitive advantage. Now “me too” is exactly what the expression implies. It’s a product or business idea that’s getting into a competitive market where many similar products already exist. With such a product/service, what you’re simply saying is “hey, try me too”.

When White star laundry bar soap was introduced on the market, it was a “me too” product. This is simply because it was not the only soap on the market. But according to many of its users, it came with just the right competitive advantage. According to them it was designed bigger/thicker in size which improved ones grip and made it easier doing laundry. The soap was also reportedly longer lasting, formed more lather and was gentler on hands compared to its competitors. Now White star shows crucial aspects of how a “me too” product can be made wildly successful.

Venturing into a “me too” product/service category can have some advantages if done the right way. To begin with, you’re dealing with a type of product/service that’s already known and has an established demand. You won’t have to test the market or spend too much time educating your customers as is the case when you have a new innovation that people hardly know much about. The downside to this is that with a “me too” product/service you’re getting into a market that probably already has fierce competition. You will have to clearly distinguish your offering so it has a competitive edge to stand out.

There is a common misguided assumption by some entrepreneurs that says ‘build it and they will come.’ A number of startup hopefuls with “me too” products often think they will get to market and get a small slice of the market and profitability pie. However in reality, only a handful of startups can directly compete with more established brands and turn a profit. So the young man I met can sure produce soap but if he’s going to do things the same way other manufacturers do, he may not last long in the market. It is difficult to compete with big brands that produce and sell at a fraction of his costs. Not all hope is lost though, he has to find a clear way to differentiate his Soap to such a degree that there exists a distinct variation from the competition. Keep in mind that whatever variation he creates should be important enough to the customers to push them to switch from other soap brands to his.

As I conclude, if you are starting a business venture today, chances are you have a “me too” product/service and you’ll therefore have to play the “me too” game. In this game, you will have fierce competition. You’ll have to think and plan on how you’ll standout in order to have a fighting chance.

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