Business Competitive Advantage: The Problem With Being Too Unique

Updated on June 4, 2020
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Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker specializing in sales and marketing topics for coaches, consultants, and solopreneurs.

Learn how to be unique—but not too unique!
Learn how to be unique—but not too unique! | Source

I'm a big fan of the History Channel shows, American Pickers and Pawn Stars. One of the most interesting and entertaining aspects of the shows for me is watching how sellers value the unique (or not so unique) items they're offering for sale to the shows' stars.

Usually, a deal doesn't get done because:

  • Seller is emotionally attached to the item and is setting the price based on the unique emotional value it has for them.
  • Sellers have seen something "for sale on the Internet" and believe that someone else's asking price is the price they will get.
  • Sellers don't realize they are selling for resale. Except in rare instances, the shows' stars are only purchasing items to sell again to others and they must make a profit.
  • Sellers have an extremely rare item and equate rarity with value and price.

So what does this have to do with sales and pricing strategies in marketing? Everything! And most of these deal breakers have to do with managing an offering's uniqueness and competitive advantage. Let's see how.

Emotional Pricing

In a perfect world, sellers would price their offerings considering reasonable profit margins and realistic sales forecasts. But, like some of the clueless sellers on these shows, many entrepreneurs and small business owners are in love with the product or service they offer and their outrageous prices reflect it. They believe that what they offer is so unique that surely it can command the prices they set. Plus, often what they are selling is really not unique because they haven't done their research homework.

  • Know the Market and Competition. While setting prices based on competitors can be deadly to small businesses especially, knowing what people are paying for similar or nearly similar products and services can be helpful in setting realistic, realizable prices for the target market demographic.

"Saw It on the Internet" Pricing

These sellers are almost the opposite of the emotional sellers. They've "sort of" done their homework and at least did some searching to see what their item might be worth. But they might be comparing their item with a highly collectible, mint condition version of it. They think their item is as unique as some of the highest-priced ones on eBay. Or they might be looking at the selling price or value from a time when the market for it was booming.

  • Apples to Apples . . . and then to Oranges. Know how your product or service stacks up to what is currently for sale in the marketplace. Then realize what unique qualities can be capitalized upon.

Sale or Resale?

Inexperienced sellers featured on these shows can also get tripped up by asking for a "retail" price from the shows' stars. They forget that these folks are buying to resell the items. Even funnier is when these sellers try to convince the buyers that they'll "get a lot of money" because the item is so unique. Really? The shows' stars deal in these markets all day, every day. They have a good pulse on what's in the marketplace and what's moving.

  • Know Your Buyer and Why They're Buying. Why is a buyer even considering buying what's for sale? Personal use? Resale? Pricing and selling for the wrong purpose can make a seller appear inexperienced or uninformed, neither of which increases the chances of a sale.
  • Understand What's Realistic for the Market. Don't set blue sky sales prices based on an item's erroneously perceived rarity or uniqueness.

The Rare Factor

Celebrity signatures? Items with historic value? Products that are no longer being made? They all could be very rare. But the big question is "Does it have a market?"

Regardless of how rare or unique an item is, if there are no ready, willing, and able buyers for it, the item will not sell, even if it technically has value.

Similarly, small business owners can often get tripped up by trying to offer the most rare and unique product or service on the market. Example: "We're the only ones making glow-in-the-dark pasta." Oooookay. Never heard of glow-in-the-dark pasta and don't think we ever will. Yes, it's rare. But a situation where that would be a desirable product is also rare, if not non-existent.

Another point is the difference between rarity and uniqueness. Rarity usually means that there is a limited supply. Uniqueness means that it is different from other offerings. A product or service can be either or both. But rarity and uniqueness do not always equal sale-ability.

  • Understand the Difference Between Being Unique and Being Marketable. One can sing the "I'm Unique and/or Rare" song all day long. But if the market doesn't desire or care about that difference, then sales will be very difficult.
  • Do Realistic Profit and Loss and Sales Forecasts. Unique and rare products and services may have limited appeal and markets . . . as well as limited sales. Forecast and budget accordingly.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

© 2014 Heidi Thorne


Submit a Comment
  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    5 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi AudreyHowitt! Thanks for the kind comments. I think we all agree. :) Have a great day!

  • AudreyHowitt profile image

    Audrey Howitt 

    5 years ago from California

    I agree with PegCole--really a great hub--and spot on

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    5 years ago from Chicago Area

    Hi PegCole17! I also love the questions Mike and Frank throw out to the sellers on American Pickers. And, you're right, it's only worth what someone will pay for it... TODAY. Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! Have a wonderful week!

  • heidithorne profile imageAUTHOR

    Heidi Thorne 

    5 years ago from Chicago Area

    FlourishAnyway, even though I love the concept, I have never gotten into watching Shark Tank. But I can imagine some of the wacky stuff that makes its way onto that stage. Gotta think customers first! Thanks for starting off your week reading my hubs. Cheers!

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 

    5 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

    Heidithorne, I'm also a big fan of these two shows along with Antiques Roadshow. You're absolutely right in identifying the difference between marketable, unique and rare. An item is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. I like it when Mike asks the question, "What is your I don't want to sell it price?" People fail to distinguish the difference between asking price and sold for price when comparing items on eBay. Great information here. Voted up.

  • FlourishAnyway profile image


    5 years ago from USA

    Wonderful hub, and the examples made the concepts leap off the screen. Some of the too unique products can sometimes be seen on Shark Tank. Voted up and more, plus sharing.


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