The Power of Inertia

purplecowI wholeheartedly subscribe to the idea that businesses should strive to be remarkable – we should strive to be, in the classic words of Seth Godin, a Purple Cow in the midst of a herd of sameness.

But many companies drift along with some level of success even though, perhaps, they aren’t all that remarkable. Why?

One reason is the power of inertia. That is, we’ll often stick with a brand or company or service provider because they haven’t done anything bad enough to lose our business.

I am driving my third Mazda. My first, an older 323, was a pretty good car. Later, I bought a Mazda 626, which I had for a good number of years – and I was pretty pleased with it. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was perfectly adequate and reliable. And when it was time to get a new car for my business a couple years back, the winner was…a Mazda6.

I’d gotten used to the Mazda. I liked it. It was perfectly OK.

Surely there were other cars that would have been perfectly OK as well. But, you see, they were unknowns to me. I had a baseline level of trust in Mazda, and inertia argued that there was no compelling reason to change.

For the same reason, I’ve had a string of Dell computers. Again, none of them give me the same pride of ownership as when I whip out my iPhone, but they have worked reliably for me. Why change? (well, actually, I do plan to convert the family computer to a Mac – but that’s because of a desire for a whole new platform, not because of dissatisfaction with Dell).

Inertia. If it’s been OK, or pretty good, or really good in the past, it helps ease us into giving repeat business.

I would hope that no company will strive to live off of this reality. “Our mission – to be quite adequate!” But perhaps it explains why so many companies survive and even thrive (for a season) in the marketplace. Bleeding edge folks tend to be more daring in their purchases of the latest and greatest, less focused on straight-on reliability and adequacy. But there is a vast pool of consumers that buy on inertia. If you’re not going to be a purple cow, at least be a really good black and white one. But I still think you should strive to be purple.

What do you think? Can black & white cows still make it in the marketplace? And, how does inertia shape some of your decisions?

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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

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