03/19/2013 11:45 am ET Updated May 19, 2013

'Who' Your Business Is Now Matters More Than What You Sell

The core reason of every business is to provide a product or service in exchange for some value/money. The measure of that 'value' depends on what your business and the recipient of your service/product have decided is a fair price. Whether you sell shoes, fish, consulting services or diapers you have to deliver something for someone to give you some money for it (I use money to represent value).

In the technology enabled and information laden world that we now live in it is becoming very difficult to differentiate your business (online or on main street). You want to start a donut store? Just google 'how to start a donut store?' and there are a few hundred articles on a step-by-step process to starting one. Want to launch a web based shoe retail site? Same thing applies; just search the Internet and you end up with enough information to decide when you want to start. The point here is that the 'business' side of building a business is now commoditized and you cannot charge a premium for a commodity product/service. No longer can you lay claim to intellectual property for most business models out there. That's the bad news.

The good news is that the 'commodity' you sell now matters less but the 'you' of the service/product will win or lose you business. I'll use an example; there is a donut store near our office called 'Glazed and Infused'. It's not the only donut store we have within walking distance of our office but, unfailingly, every time we have a craving for donuts or have something to celebrate we dash straight to 'Glazed and Infused'. Why? Because they've (for lack of a better word) infused their quirky character into the different types of donuts, the conversations you have with the staff and the ambience - they sell their brand not just donuts. 'Glazed and infused' sell delicious donuts but the real reason why we choose them over other donut stores is because we like their brand.

The next question is 'who determines your brand?' if this is now the most important element of building a business? Control of brand equity is now starting to shift into the hands of the consumers who now have social media tools to tell people who they really think you are. The one thing you still control about your brand is how you deliver on the promises you make to your customers. When you don't deliver, like some customers are starting to show retail electricity suppliers, your brand will be worth even less than the commodity you are trying to sell...