Having a compelling value proposition is step 1 in your marketing strategy. The guys who wrote The Business Model Generation have a book that is built around designing your value proposition. This is an awesome resource and asks those questions to ensure your value proposition hits home with your ideal customers.
What else can you do to stand out from the crowd?
- Collaborate. Whether we like it or not customers are in the box seat. They choose to visit your website, view your ad or open your email and they can click delete, navigate to another page or change the channel in a nano second! As a small business, you are uniquely placed to collaborate with your customers. You can do this using social media tools like Facebook, and forums, blogs and Tweets. Innovations are best when they come from the customers because they are telling you (in many cases) a better way to do something! Invite customers to be a part of your planning. Creating a collaborative culture in your small business with your employees contributing freely can really help too!
- Offer Understanding and Insight
Communicating with your customers could be as simple as a phone call or online survey. If done with sensitivity to their needs and not in an annoying five-page survey it can be something that provides great insight for your small business to change something that was losing you business or create something that will give you a competitive edge.
- Share your story
Stand for something and make it count! So many companies still just don’t get it. People buy from those they know, like and trust. How can they get to know you if all you have on your website is the same old company spiel? Your potential customers are making decisions about whether to contact you every day. Give them the whole story so they can make a decision based on what and who you really are. Freshbooks is a good example of this. Remember, you don’t have to try to make your story inspiring, it just has to be real! Read Tell to Win by Peter Guber which tells the importance of storytelling in business.
- Make Work Fun and Easy
How likable are you anyway? The journey, the process and the prospect of working together has to be enjoyable for you and the client. Marketing is not a one-off activity, but an integral part of the business model. Inject some whiteboards, smarties and have a sense of humour! All services have an opportunity to create a customer experience that is enjoyable.
- Be Customer Centric
Step into your customer’s shoes every day. One of the most fundamental changes you can make is to step through the customer touch points in your business and consciously think about them. This awareness of how they feel at each stage in your process makes you change how you do things. Small businesses are best placed to be customer centric but it does take a mind shift. Look at your website, storefront, business card, flyers, staff and services from your customer’s view point. Now should you change something? The answer is always yes.
- Fail quickly but create an idea-based culture
No one will ever get fired for trying something new. If you can create a culture where you and your team are prepared to try ideas and experiment you are likely to hit a few jackpots!
- Love your Employees. Would you want to work for you? Employees are the soul of your small business; this is because your customers can feel instantly if they have walked into a positive or negative environment. If your employees are happy you are half way to creating a great brand. Something as simple as bean bags in the coffee-room, a punching bag (good one Pete), and some nice flowers planted in the garden outside your office, can make a world of difference. You have to take responsibility for setting the tone and then allow your employees to add their own flavour to it.
These seven principles are simple yet very effective and can set you apart from other businesses. How can you take these strategies and improve your competitive advantage today? Love to know.
You know how sometimes the universe keeps sending you the same message? Like if you are interested in buying a new red car all you see is red cars or if you want to be pregnant, all you see is pregnant women. Well, I must be focused on purpose and passion of a small business owner. In the past three weeks I have learnt a few important lessons I wanted to share.
1. Stand for something or you will mean nothing?
Are you doing too many things? Dan Pink states there are two questions that are important to ask.
- What is my sentence? (use this to navigate your life)
- Was I better today than I was yesterday? (use this to motivate you)
2. Show it don’t say it. This was highlighted by a friend Pete the other week and I guess it applies to much of designing your purpose as an organisation. Lip service really is just that. People can feel your purpose if you live it every day. I will give you an example. Previous boyfriends would always drop the line about 12 months in mark ” I love you”. I guess to me it lost a bit of meaning because the words only mean something if they showed, lived it. My husband on the other hand was slower to reveal this sentence but he showed me very early on in our relationship that he loved me. Throwing small pebbles up at my window, tap dancing outside, being patient beyond belief and caring and investing in my and now our dreams. How do you show your purpose for your business? If it is about fun, how do you demonstrate it day-to-day.
The Good Life Project is an example of people getting sure about their purpose. I have added their Creed here as I thought it was inspiring.
Like this? Learn to build a better life at Good Life Project.
3. Live your dream through your customers eyes.
This is the part I have to play. My purpose. To ensure that your purpose, your point of difference is felt, lived and shown to your customers every day. Today your customers are part of the conversation. They often are well researched and have narrowed down solutions to solve their problems. How do you ensure you are on that list? I believe it is about the three steps above.
1. Stand for Something and invest in this purpose everyday with out dilution.
2. Show it, live it so you earn the space and your value is clear.
Vision Mission and Values Template. This helps you identify what your vision is for your business and how you are going to achieve it with your value set.
Values sheet – what values are important to your company. People choose you for the how as much as the what.
Ready to get going? Book a consultation.
I was speaking with a client the other day and he suggested I need to separate me Dan the person, from MacInnis Marketing the brand. This statement got me thinking. Is this advisable or even possible when you are a small business delivering a service?
The personality of the brand MacInnis Marketing is all tied up with who I am and my values. My value is intricately tied to that. The very reason clients choose to use me as a consultant is I would argue because of who I am? Obviously this is different if you run a large company with a number of employees, but in a small business doesn’t the person count more? Isn’t it more relationship based? Do you choose your dentist, accountant, lawyer and doctor because something about their personal brand resonates with you?
Tom Peters from FastCompany says how important it is to nurture your personal brand “Regardless of age, regardless of position, regardless of the business we happen to be in, all of us need to understand the importance of branding. We are CEOs of our own companies: Me Inc. To be in business today, our most important job is to be head marketer for the brand called You.” Tom explains in today’s world of self publishing, of social media, of 1 to many everyone has the chance to stand out as a brand.
Anyone can have a website, twitter account, Facebook page and as Tom explains, any body does, so how do you know which one is worth visiting or following? The answer Tom suggests is branding. The branding is the promise of value you receive so you go back again and again. Professional service firms are all about delivering an intangible service and so to stand out it is the individual that must distinguish him or herself. As Tom explains “if you’re really smart, you figure out what it takes to create a distinctive role for yourself — you create a message and a strategy to promote the brand called You.
What if you don’t want to grow beyond yourself as a entrepeneur. What if you are not looking to hire, then what? Laura Bergell’s wrote a great article on discovering your brand and Laura would suggest the essence is knowing who you really are and how your customers see you.
Here is how my customers say they see me:(worlde)
So I believe your personal brand is all wrapped up in your company when you are a small business and particularly a sole practitioner so here are some ways you can work on your personal brand:
1) Identify the qualities that makes you distinctive from others.
2) Think about the things that can add remarkable,measurable,distinguish and distinctive value in you.
3) Increase your visibility
4) Analyze the feature and benefits you are giving to your customers.
5) Continuously evaluate your self,how you as a brand is doing.
6) Never limit your scope. (Thanks Kuldeep-Kashyap – student)
So I guess thinking about my client’s comment I am really glad that my personality, values and strengths are part of my brand and I hope to evolve and grow by the gift of feedback from my clients. I don’t think can separate myself from my brand and in fact I want to do the opposite and use forums like this to further build my profile and identity with others.
Good food for thought!
This month starts my Value Proposition Workshop Series around Australia for the Department of Industry and Science for the resource sector. A value proposition is a much misunderstood term by small businesses. It really means why your customers choose you? What value do you provide them? Thinking about your value proposition brings up all sorts of questions and some that you may not want to confront.
If you are a small business that started your SMB because you loved doing something, it just might be that you have never tested the value that you offer. The most common reason why businesses fail is they have built a business around something no-body wants.
Why not test your value proposition here in my quick survey and see how you stack up.