Book Review: Becoming a Category of One Second Edition by Joe Calloway

by Xin Lu on 5 November 2009 1 comment

In Becoming a Category of One, business consultant Joe Calloway writes about how companies can successfully beat their competition by creating their own category of business and being the only one in it. I feel that many business leaders would benefit by reading this book, and as a consumer I feel that the world would be a better place if all businesses applied the lessons in this book.

First of all, I felt that the book offered a lot of common sense advice that not all businesses seem to understand. Joe Calloway writes that Category of One businesses know their values and do their core jobs very well, and then they add a "wow factor." If companies chase after the "wow factor" and ignore their basic products then they will not necessarily be successful. One example he gave was that his wife ate at a restaurant that served a salad that was piled high like a tower, and the waiter said that was their "wow factor." Afterwards, his wife told him that salad was a stupid idea because there is no way to eat it without making a mess. I think a lot of businesses do spend too much time on gimmicks and forget the basics and Joe Calloway repeats over and over again that companies must do their core business well.

Another point in the book is that businesses cannot compete on just price and quality because modern consumers have high expectations and a lot of technology on their hands for comparison shopping. Calloway writes that Category of One companies should know more about, get closer to, and emotionally connect with their customers. Once a company accomplishes these three things it will have a competitive advantage. For example, he wrote about the product recommendation algorithms on Amazon.com and iTunes.com and how these personalized pages prompted him to buy more products. He also wrote about how he got a consulting job once simply because he knew more about the potential client's current situation. The idea is that businesses need to know what their customers want and build a real relationship with the customers. Some companies do this through data and send out bunches of form letters, but ultimately great personalized service wins.

Finally the book contains a case study on Tractor Supply Company, a chain store that serves the needs of farmers, ranchers, rural homeowners, and contractors. This chapter details the reasons why TSC is a Category of One company through customer letters and interviews with executives. This chapter is a little repetitive and ultimately the author concludes that Tractor Supply Company simply knows exactly what they are all about and executes on their mission of working hard, having fun, and making the customers happy.

Overall, I thought that the book is very easy to read and contained a lot of simple truths on how a business could stand out in the eyes of its customers. Although the ideas are simple, not every business cares enough to execute them. This book is great for anyone who runs his or her own business or even someone who is trying to find a job. It teaches you how you can differentiate yourself from your competitors and be in a Category of One.

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book and this post contains an Amazon Affiliates link to the book.

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Glad to hear about this book. I will definitely be checking it out.