And Five Ways to Start Working It – TODAY
Small business owners are constantly challenged with issues related to marketing, advertising and sales. The safest, easiest (so, therefore cheapest) way to address your marketing activities is to look at the business model of others in your industry and see how they are doing it. Brochures, email marketing, social media, cold-calling, and networking events all have their place. If you are doing what everyone else is doing, you are likely getting some results, but not the results you want.
What you are doing isn’t making you stand out enough to get the abundance of attention you want.
Differentiation, I think, is the single most important part of any small business marketing plan. It’s more important than a snazzy advertisement, and (dare I say!) even more important than fantastic copy.
You can create an original image for your business, but it likely will take some ingenuity to break through all those ideas that have been beaten into us our whole lives: you should strive to “be like everyone else”, “be inconspicuous” – or the worst – “just try to blend in”.
Here are FIVE THINGS you can do today in your business to differentiate your brand from the competition:
- Find a competitor that is more successful than you are and steal an idea. Imitation is, after all, the best way to flatter. Make a list of what you like about what your idols and industry influencers are doing – how they are marketing, how they handle customer service, what they post on social media, the state of their website – anything. Pick one or two things and create your own version.
For example, a leader in your industry gives a $5 Starbucks card for each new referral. It works for them, and they are getting loads of new referrals each week. You could give something bigger and better for two referrals, or three. Your clients love you, and they will want to refer you to others. Make it fun and rewarding for them to do so. Think big and outside the box. Survey your clients and find out what would motivate them to seek out business for you, and then provide it.
- Observe your business and industry’s “normal” activities and crush the monotony. Create categories: must always do, must never do, and ok under the right circumstances. Things like always sending a thank you card, or making a follow up call within 24 hours of a purchase are great things to always do. Posting pictures of potential new clients on your personal social media sites is always a no-no.
See where you can find places to add flavor to your industry and stand out as an innovator. For example, when you send that thank you card, why not include a testimonial about your experience? Since premature social media pics are taboo, why not post a general comment about a successful meeting on your business page, inserting a compliment that only the insiders would understand?
Who says business isn’t creative? Put on your thinking cap and find a way to get others to notice your originality.
- Give something of value away with no strings. My favorite example of this is See’s Chocolate. Why? (Who knows what I’m about to say?) Every employee at every See’s store greets you with a hearty smile when you walk in and reaches out to you within three seconds with a free chocolate to eat while you’re shopping. Most of my See’s runs are only to get just one chocolate. When I tell the cashier than I’m only going to get one chocolate, and I fully intend to pay for it, the response is usually, with a smile, “No problem. Which one would you like today?” They hand me what I want and happily wave me goodbye, not accepting my money! What kind of wonderful business model is that?
If you can provide something of value to your potential clients, with no expectations or ties, you’ve made a friend and loyal follower who will tell others about you because it’s different. So many people nowadays only want to make a buck. Be so confident and sure of your business that you can afford to give stuff away for free.
- Communicate in a multitude of eccentric ways to get noticed in more places. Marketing people communicate like crazy, as do recruiters. Communication is key to reaching their business goals. But, what about a banker, account executive or airline pilot? These types of positions only really require an outflow of communication when one is looking to pursue new opportunities.
But, think about it. Could a banker or airline pilot use social media and personal communication to further their career, even if they had no intentions of making a change? You bet.
If a banker does his own email marketing campaign, or his own Facebook ads and blog, that would be different than the norm, wouldn’t it? If a pilot gave away visits to the cockpit on his flights, would he become more well-known? Absolutely! And, with all the rave reviews his bosses would get about his good deeds, he’d have nice grounds to ask for a raise of some sort.
- The unthinkable: Sincerely praise a competitor to an existing or potential client.
As with giving away something of value, praising your competition works the opposite way most people think it will. It doesn’t send people to your competitor, it secures them solidly at your side. Your confidence and humility, and ability to appreciate something that could harm you, is brave and daring. Discussing, understanding and appreciating what others are doing in your industry makes you the subject matter expert you need to be.
The clients that would leave you for the competition were never really in a partnership with you to begin with, so good riddance. Hangers-on that are always looking for something better are not the clients that are going to help boost your business into the stratosphere. That negative energy needs to be cut loose.
Please share your own stories with me, actions you have taken or seen that provide differentiation, and how that affected business. The underdog has a greater potential than ever before to come out on top. He just needs to find a way to be different.
Here’s to a prosperous new year for you and yours. Let us know how we can help you succeed!
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