Most small businesses face competition. Whether you’re designing websites, running a restaurant or store, repairing cars, or advising other businesses, your business isn’t the only one offering these types of products or services. This can make you feel like one of many companies without really knowing how to differentiate yourself from it. Depending on your industry, your competitors may not be other businesses in your area. They can be established elsewhere in the country at the end of the world.
How can your small business succeed? How can you set yourself apart from other companies selling similar products and services? How to conclude your first sales and retain your customers?
You have to start by thinking about what you offer. What is truly unique about your business? Take these questions into account and discover several ways to take advantage of a highly competitive market.
Specialize in a niche where there is little or no competition
One proven strategy is to find a niche in the market that no one is serving and to focus on it. Recently created or solidly established businesses can learn from the story of Greg Davis. Greg suffers from multiple sclerosis, a disease that weakens the muscles, making it very difficult for him to walk. After reading that recumbent tricycles are easier to use for people with reduced mobility who have balance problems, he wanted to try one.
There was only one store selling it within an 80 miles radius, and only one model in this store. It’s the one Greg bought. He was so happy to be able to move outside on his own that he decided to open “Your Trike Spirit” in Deer Park, New York, a store selling recumbent tricycles. It helps people with disabilities to discover the joy of travelling with them.
Here are some ideas for identifying niche areas that are underused in your industry:
Your business cards are your biggest assets. Make sure your customers and clients know you personally.
- Gather feedback from your customers to identify what you are doing better than the competition, or what they would like to find but no one is offering.
- Research your competitors: visit their websites, read reviews online, sign up for their newsletter, check out their store. You will be able to see what they are doing better and what they could improve.
- If you run a restaurant, you could add a gluten-free menu. A landscaper could decide to treat lawns only with products that are safe for children and pets. A hairdresser could remain open in the evening or move home for clients who work during the day.
Use a catchy name or tagline
Another way to grab the attention of customers is to find a unique name for your business or a catchy slogan. Large companies have formed slogans that immediately announce what they offer and why customers should buy their products or services. “Because I’m worth it” by L’Oréal is an excellent example.
Fortunately, you don’t have to be a big company with an unlimited budget to find a good name or tagline. To make yours memorable, keep in mind:
- The name customers give to what you sell
- The results they want to achieve with their purchase
- Their feelings after their purchase
For example, the slogan of a physiotherapy centre could be something like: “We are putting you back in motion.”
Attract customers with your brand personality
Getting noticed by potential customers is only the first step to setting yourself apart from your competitors. The next and most important step is to convince them to choose you. This entirely depends on the personality of your brand and your business mission.
We do business with the people we appreciate, that we respect and who inspire confidence in us. Both individuals and businesses will prefer one seller to another because of a more favourable overall impression.
Highlight what makes you unique
Here’s what sets us apart from the rest. Focus on the personality of your brand and what you promise, as well as what makes your current customers like working with you. For example, are you the only bakery in town to offer gluten-free bread? Are you the entrepreneur with the most experience in green building?
You can’t just say, “Our customer service is impeccable.” Highlight concrete qualities such as speed, the ability to adapt to individual needs, the quality of products and services, and other strengths that your customers appreciate. You have to be among the best in these aspects.
Make sure you can back up what you promise your customers. If you say you offer the best prices in town, you will have to prove that they are indeed lower than those of other companies. Otherwise, clients may think that you do not understand the job or that you are skimping on the means.
Create a personal link
Remember that for many customers, small business is not what is missing. Think of a way to become a partner for your customer, not just a salesperson. In return, you will probably find that your clientele builds loyalty. If you become a resource, customers won’t look for lower prices elsewhere. They stay loyal because of the added value you offer.
The following methods can help you stay in the minds of customers:
- Send out newsletters with industry news, tips and other information that matters to your customers.
- Send special offers by email.
- Be present on social networks.
- Invite potential customers and interesting contacts for coffee.
- Organize an event reserved for customers with whom you are trying to reconnect.
- Praise your customers when you hear about their successes.
- Send handwritten notes thanking them for doing business or spending time with you.
When you think you’ve reached the top of your game, don’t hesitate to rethink everything. Do not rest on your laurels, start thinking about the next steps: can you still improve your main product or service? Is there anything new you could offer? Here are some ideas to start your thinking:
- Try to improve your customer service.
- Study the trends in your industry and ask yourself how to apply them to your business.
- Use technology to optimize your processes and speed up your service.
- Offer a unique product or service that isn’t available anywhere else.