So you’ve been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug and decided to start your own small business. The only thing on your mind right now is giving your new venture the push it needs to become a success. But how exactly do you intend to do that?
No matter your industry, to succeed in business, you’re going to need customers. And to get customers, you’re going to have to get noticed. A lot. You’ve done the market research, so you know there’s already a buttload of established companies in your industry. How do you cut through the noise and get people flocking to your brand, the new kid on the block?
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It’s not enough to just copy a business model, and hope that it works—you need to differentiate. That means setting your brand apart from the competition and communicating with customers in a way that gets their attention (and keeps it). If that sounds hard to do, don’t worry—I’ve got you covered.
Here are 5 possible ways you can make your small business stand out:
1. Be Unique
If you can come up with a business idea that no one has ever had before or find a unique approach to a tried-and-trusted model, you’re laughing. Of course, this is easier said than done. You’ll need to have creativity, originality and vision to pull this off, and you may need to do some extra legwork when it comes to convincing Joe Public that he actually needs your fancy new product.
But get it right, and you’re almost guaranteed success. Take the Grobag, for example. This sleeping bag for babies is a ridiculously simple invention, and it’s unlike anything that existed beforehand. But it solves a problem that mums and dads are always concerned about—keeping their beloved sprog safe, secure and warm—and it does so in a unique way. Needless to say, the Grobag has become a major success.
Then you have the likes of Apple. They design products that are so exclusive; people will queue up overnight and pay silly money to get their hands on them. Think about how you can incorporate this philosophy into your own business. What kind of unique offer can you put together that will make customers want to be associated with your brand? What are the problems in your market that have gone unnoticed up to now, and how can you solve them? Figure out how to answer these questions, and you might just be the next big success story.
2. Be the Best
Creativity and imagination don’t come easily to everyone, but luckily there are other ways to stand out. Instead of trying to come up with the "next big thing," you can take an idea that’s already been done and try to do it better. This is probably the safer option too because a tried-and-tested product or business idea is less likely to fall flat on its face out the gate.
If you’ve done your homework, then you’ll already know who your competitors are in the market. Now take a look at their offers and services, and see how you can do better for customers. I’m not just talking about undercutting their prices, either. Think about how you can go the extra mile, create a more prestigious product, or offer better customer support.
To give you an example, a colleague of mine recently had to deal with a massive cockroach problem in their apartment. The place was teeming, it was hideous. They tried several pest control companies, but couldn’t seem to rid themselves of the problem. Workers would come in, spray some nasty stuff around the place and then leave. A few days later, the roaches would be back in numbers.
In the end, they managed to find an amazing pest control company who dealt with the cockroach situation for good (and with remarkable professionalism and courtesy, to boot). Who do you think they’re going to recommend to their friends?
3. Divide and Conquer
For small businesses and entrepreneurs, specialisation is the name of the game. A lot of companies try to be all things to all people, but this is completely impractical unless you have the resources of a major corporation like Amazon or Sony. If you can narrow down your services by focusing on a sub-niche within your market, you can quickly develop a reputation as an expert and carve out a nice slice of the pie for yourself.
For example, let’s say you want to offer translation services. Most translation agencies cast their net far and wide, trying to cover all combinations of languages and all areas of expertise. How many dozens (or hundreds) of employees do you think they need to have to pull that off? As a small business, you can’t hope to compete with that.
But if you narrow your focus, you instantly stand out as a specialist. If translating medical research from German to Japanese is what you’re best at, then stick with that for now. You might feel that you’re excluding a lot of potential clients, but you’ll quickly become the go-to company for those customers who need your specific service. As your business and reputation grows, you can broaden the net and expand to cover new areas of the market. Remember—divide and conquer.
4. Go Above and Beyond
Another way to stand out from competitors is to offer some kind of supplementary service that they don’t. Yes, I’ve already mentioned that you should try to be better than the other businesses in your industry, but this is a little different. I’m talking about throwing in something extra that your customers won’t necessarily expect to ramp up the "luxury" or "quirkiness" factor.
Own a dog-grooming salon? Why not buy a bunch of massage chairs for the waiting room so customers can relax, unwind and feel pampered too? Just opened a restaurant or cafe? Hire a local street magician to entertain patrons while they wait to be seated.
Think about how you can make your own business memorable for customers, and you’ll be first to mind whenever they decide to make a purchase or are asked for a recommendation. You’ll see repeat business and referrals increase, and you’ll likely be able to charge a premium for your services—nice!
5. Connect with Customers
One of the worst things that can happen to any small business is that your customers forget about you. When that happens, the money stops coming in and everything grinds to a halt. This was a major problem for new companies in the bad old pre-Internet days, but there’s no excuse for letting it happen now.
First of all, if you don’t have profiles on the major social media platforms, what the hell are you thinking!?! At a minimum, you should be active on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn so can share the latest news and special offers from your company. It helps customers easily get in touch on platforms they’re already using and ensures you’re on hand to answer their support questions.
Secondly, if you don’t have a company blog, start one. It’s a great way to engage customers with useful information or company insight, and it acts as a portal to get people interested in your offers. Remember, your "industry" is nothing more than a community of people exchanging ideas and services. Be an active member of that community, connect with people, and success will follow.
How do you set yourself apart from competitors? Let us know in the comments below: