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Monday, March 9, 2020

What is the unique value proposition of selling honey?

There are these two beekeepers, Barry and Mark.

They both sell honey. They come from the same kind of bees. They actually come from the same part of the countryside, from the same mix of flowers. It's really hard to tell them apart. Given a blind taste test, you'd be hard-pressed to know which one is which as you're consuming it.

But then, one day, news comes out. Mark is being mean to his bees. Maybe he's doing nasty, evil things to them. The public hears about this, and they start vectoring away from Mark and over towards Barry. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to where people start noticing the fact that you can get honey from more than one place in this town.

Of course, Barry has nothing special going on. Barry has bees and sells honey. There's nothing unique to his process. He has no patents, no "moat", no contracts, no special deals, and no real break on pricing. Really, the only thing that sets Barry apart is quite literally people coming out and saying "Barry is not Mark".

Barry does not really exist, except as a subtraction from Mark. He has no identity of his own. He roams around in the void, copying other companies that happen to do things with food as long as it shows up at the top of Grocer News. Nothing much seems to help.

Imagine if you were Barry. What would you do? If your unique value proposition is that you're slightly less evil than someone else, what keeps someone else from coming in and being slightly less evil than you? They might also have deep pockets and might be able to undercut the both of you. Then they'll capture all of the business.

Maybe they'll pay their bees better. They'll hire them outright and give them bee benefits instead of having them work as 1099 labor. That'll win a bunch of hearts and minds. "Oh, it's better for the bees, so now we only buy our honey from Willy".

It really wouldn't take much to come in and shake things up.

Is this your world? Careful now -- don't get stung.