Years ago McDonald’s launched a product that defined their brand, the Big Mac. At it’s core, the new burger wasn’t anything new, since it is basically a double cheeseburger. It’s the special sauce that sets it apart from the competition. After all, we can all recite the jingle from memory years after the fact. “Two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun.” The food industry has been using “family recipes,” “secret ingredients,” and “special sauces” to differentiate their products in an over-saturated market for decades with great success. Why not take that same model and define your own secret sauce for your industry?
A secret sauce by nature should be something that only a few know, while many people have experienced it. Consumers love a good mystery, and they will continue to buy your products or services to try and reveal the magic behind your secret sauce. In the case of McDonald’s we’ve all mixed ketchup and mayonnaise together to recreate their special sauce yet the Big Mac is still just as popular as when it was introduced nationally in 1967. A secret family recipe adds a level of comfort to a brand. There’s a sense of love and trust embedded in the idea that’s been passed from generation to generation, and it shows a commitment to the quality of your product or service. You’re brand is defined by the feeling that your end-user gets from interacting with your product or services, and a secret sauce puts them on the inside of the circle of trust.
To define your secret sauce you need to examine 3 key factors — your customers/partners, your competitors and your processes. Begin by talking to your end-users and any partners who interact with your brand. How do they view your products or services? Why do they come back to you? Often you’ll find that it isn’t your core service that keeps customers from coming back, especially since most industries have multiple choices for purchasing products and services. In the case of Walmart, you might immediately assume that low prices are the reason for customer loyalty when in fact it is the convenience of grocery, pharmacy, household and even a doctor under 1 roof that keeps many consumers coming back. If they add apartments into the mix, customers would never have to leave the Walmart compound.
You’ll also want to take a close look at your direct competitors. What are they doing that’s similar to you? How are they different? And most importantly, how do they view you? It’s okay to do what your competition does, but find a way to dress it up with your own secret sauce. Target has taken the same approach to the one-stop shop just like Walmart, however Target features top fashion and furniture designers that you would see at high-end department stores. Target’s secret sauce is “life-style within budget.” Consumers view Target as a higher-end big box retailer despite the fact that they sell much of the same products as Walmart for the same price. Often the consumers perception of your brand can be greatly influenced by your secret sauce.
Next you’ll want to take a look at you’re internal processes in respect to your target market and your competition. Do you have a unique way of presenting your products? Is their a process that you consistently go through that is unique to your business? For example, Google developed an algorithm to rank websites based on content as well as popularity which has made them the #1 search engine on the web. Google openly talks about the results that their algorithm gets, and the fact that it is an algorithm, however, they don’t reveal what the algorithm is. If they did, then they would probably not be on top. Your secret sauce can be anything related to your business, but it should become the core of how you differentiate yourself from your competition.
So, now you’ve found your secret sauce, but how do you use it? Take your idea and boil it down to the simplest terms. If you’ve come up with a revolutionary new sandwich, what makes it so different? It’s the sauce made by mixing ketchup and mayonnaise together rather than two separate spreads. In the simplest of terms “special sauce.” Less complex is better.
The next step is to figure out how your process solves your target market’s pains. For example, color strategy is an area that’s confusing and full of misinformation, and most decisions unfortunately are based on personal opinion. My secret sauce involves a process that reveals the strategy behind brand color in simple visual terms, which eliminates any preconceived notions of what colors mean and more importantly eliminates the urge to make a decision based on personal opinion. In simplest terms, we create “color harmony.” If you can relate your secret sauce to solving a problem for your client then you’ll immediately begin building trust and showing your expertise.
Remember you’re taking your process, and making it marketable. Don’t reveal what your secret sauce is, only what it does. Think of it like a magic trick. We know it’s a trick, what it involves and we often try to figure it out. If someone shows us how to do the trick then it loses its power. It’s the mystery of trick itself that we’re attracted to. Likewise, your secret sauce should sell the results of your unique process as well as the mystery of how it works.
Every company has a secret sauce. Discover it, and make it a key ingredient in your recipe to success.