"The most important thing in business is a persona. People want to know what they are dealing with. And when they think about you, you've got to stand out in their minds--like one of those characters in a novel" -- Candace Bushnell
When Real Madrid paid a world record £85 million to bring in 24 year old Welsh footballer Gareth Bale from Tottenham, many expressed shock over the outrageous prices sports stars were commanding these days. Taken into perspective, he is valued higher than a good number of companies listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange. But is he really worth that much?
Bale's peers have described him as a footballer with tremendous speed, great crossing ability, a great left foot and exceptional physical qualities. In the past season he was awarded the Professional Footballers Association Young Player of the year, Players' Player of the Year and the Football Writers Association Footballer of the Year. Clearly he is an outstanding player who scores goals and makes his team win. There are very few people in the world with his ability and every club would love to have him in their team.
In the business world filled with competition, the majority of companies are just ordinary, selling ordinary products or services and earning ordinary profits. It is true that we cannot all be like Apple which churns out innovative gadgets that millions of customers wait for year in year out. Or like Innscor which is turning almost every vacant corner of Harare CBD into an Inns outlet. However, there are some things we can do to make our businesses stand out amid the competition, attract more customers and grow beyond the ordinary. Here are a few tips:
Create differentiators that are meaningful to customers. Very few businesses can sell and survive on a price differentiator alone. Even if your business operates in a saturated and highly competitive market, there are always facets of your business that can make you stand apart from your competition. Let us say you are an electrical contractor; your customers have plenty of choice when they need electrical installations or repairs done. Although price is important, there are other things you can offer for you to stand out.
Ask yourself how you can really help your customers. Can you advise them on the best solution for their needs rather than trying to sell them unnecessary work? Can you find them longer lasting components or solutions even if it means they may not need your services for a long time? Can you save them money or provide higher quality workmanship? Such differentiators which are meaningful to customers, when well-defined in contrast to what your competitors are doing, will make you stand out and attract more and higher value customers.
Be reliable. Small and medium sized businesses rely heavily on word-of-mouth referrals. If you let down a customer by failing to deliver as promised or supplying inferior products or poor service, the word will spread and your business will suffer. The foundation of brand loyalty lies in great service. A happy customer is a loyal customer and he or she will tell others about your business.
So make sure you do not promise what you cannot deliver. Some business owners will make great promises, such as being able to deliver faster than anyone else or offering lowest prices just to attract more customers. However this can backfire when you cannot keep up with your promises. Stand by your promises and you will stand out.
Be excited about your business. How many times a day do you tell strangers about your business? I have noticed that most business owners will not tell you about their business unless you ask them. And when they do tell you, they just say it in passing, with no excitement about it. If you want others to be excited about your business you have got to be the first one who is excited.
Be passionate about your business and tell others about it. Make sure people understand what you do and the story behind your products.
Talk about what your products have done for people. Share your method, your mission and all the good things about your company. Be the number one salesman, the number one cheerleader, the number one brand fan of your own business. Very few owners do that, so you will stand out by being an advocate for your business.
How are you making your business stand out? Please share your story on my website http://smebusinesslink.com or send me an email. If you haven't received my latest eBook How to develop a simple and effective financial management system, please download it at the same website or send me an email request. And please let me have your feedback.
Until next week, keep on accelerating your growth.
Phillip Chichoni is a business development consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs. You may contact him by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit http://smebusinesslink.com.