Blog Post By: Ian J. Jennings, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Baer Performance Marketing
In small business and especially in small cities, acquiring customers can quickly become a zero-sum game. You’re competing for a finite and stable number of quality customers with several similarly situated companies nearby. To the average prospective customer, your product or service is essentially the same as your competitors, so why should they buy from you? I’m sure you think your product or service is top-notch, special stuff. All that matters is whether the customer knows that or not. Your ego is irrelevant. How proud you are of your company or how happy you are that you did it your way while everyone else was jumping on trends means nothing if you don’t stay open.
Dollars and cents are how we keep score in business, and good marketing will keep that score going up. Great marketing will keep opponents from even playing the game in the first place. Amazing marketing will convince customers you’re the commissioner of the league.
So how do you differentiate when you’re doing the same thing as the guy down the road?
Do it flashier: You own a shop. Doesn’t matter what kind. Join the large club! Everyone in the club does the same thing as far as the customer is concerned. You probably all wear similar things to work, interact with your customers in about the same way, and might even look the same. My point is this: Stop it. Stop doing things out of habit. Stop printing your receipt on the same paper as the guy down the road. Stop putting out coffee in the waiting room like everyone else. Be different. Don’t even worry about doing it better necessarily, just do it well, and do it differently. Do it big while you’re at it. Be loud and obnoxious. Separate yourself. Because as far as your customer is concerned, you’re not special if you’re just like everybody else. Don’t be like everybody else.
Be nice (or weird): Customer service is part of the marketing plan, believe it or not, and one of the easiest things to differentiate you from your competitors. Hiring employees who click with your customers will immediately differentiate you and pay huge dividends over time. Customers are assets, not resources. When treated right, the asset appreciates in value. When they feel valued, customers will share the good news and become your best sales people. Demand your company culture be different than your competitors in all the best ways. Read reviews of competitors. You’ll see where they’re falling short. Pick up their slack, and their customers will follow.
Do it faster (or slower): Speed of service can be fantastic if the customer is in a hurry but isn’t always a differentiator. Most fast-food restaurants can have my food in my hand within a few minutes. The experience is roughly the same across states and franchise chains. Enterprising individuals started noticing all this food and service started blending together into one unsatisfying experience after another. “Fast-casual” was born. The Shake Shacks, Chipotle’s, and Five Guys of the world took off. You wait a little longer but the food, service, and atmosphere get noticeably better. Conventional wisdom was turned on its head. People were willing to wait a couple extra minutes for a slightly better product and slightly better service because it was special. They weren’t getting it anywhere else. Be special.
The age of assimilation is over. To win you must be bigger, smaller, faster, slower, nicer, meaner, or just plain crazier. You must try to matter. If you can’t tell me why you’re different, then neither can the customer. Maybe you’re not different. If you’re not, you better start soon. Your competitors are reading this blog post too.
If you have any questions about small business brand development, please leave them in the comment section below or privately reach out to the Baer Performance Marketing team here.