June 2, 2014
Book Review: ZAG
As we continue our reading for success series (R4S), remember this book review series is for the purpose of providing resources to busy people who wish to know what books are available and what books can help in being successful. In this review we explore a fantastic book focused on understanding the importance of branding.
Before we begin, I’d like to offer a quick thank you to my good friend, Chiara, for presenting me a copy of this book and introducing me to this excellent resource.
The book we are examining in this article is a well-written, easy-to-read book which is quite conducive to picking up, reading quickly and taking important snippets away. The author, Marty Neumeier, does an excellent job of defining a plan and then diving deeper into each point.
By Marty Neumeier
When everybody zigs, zag…Radical differentiation…is about finding a whole new market space you can own and defend, thereby delivering profits over years instead of months…the engine for a high-performance brand.
Marty delivers a clear message through the use of examples and a clearly defined process which has been the cornerstone for a successful business. There are three aspects of the “zag” which Marty focuses on. These three parts are: Finding your zag, designing your zag, and renewing your zag. The value of each is quickly outlined and defined. In particular the process of “designing your zag” is outlined through the process of answering seventeen questions. If you are interested in effectively disrupting a market and finding your brand then these questions are not only important but critical to your process.
What is a zag? According to the author the ‘zag’ is the differentiating factor which when viewed by others will define your brand. The common misconception centers around businesses creating their own unique brand and value proposition. In reality Marty suggests the brand is in actuality the reputation of the business as perceived by the customer. This graphic outlines the main portions which make up a successful brand and summarizes the various points of the book quite well.
Because of the importance of being able to define your differentiating factors, or the initial part of the process I will focus this review on those seventeen questions you should ask of your business.
As mentioned, I am focusing in particular on the seventeen questions outlining the designing of your brand. There were many other key points to this particular article however these are a great place to get you started. If you’re interested in more, you should absolutely read this book.
- Who Are You?
The ability of your business to recognize what drives you is critical to defining your zag. This is what empowers and drives not just the leader of the company but is the passion which consumes the entire company
- What Do You Do?
Beyond just identifying your passion as a business you need to be able to clearly point to what your business seeks to accomplish. This is your business’s core purpose.
- Whats Your Vision?
Once you have established core purpose the next step involves refining this purpose to a very specific and concrete vision which defines the business. Be sure to not confuse the leader’s vision with the company vision. The leader may share a rather abstract idealistic vision but this is not the same as the vision which drives the business.
- What Wave Are You Riding?
The wave is the current trend which allows your business and your brand to ‘seize the moment’ and explode onto the scene. When identifying and riding this trend you will find an energy source to continue driving the business forward.
- Who Shares The Brandscape?
Obviously in most industries the brand will not be singular or completely different from other businesses in the same sector. Therefore, because the brand space may be shared you need to focus on your uniqueness not your admirable qualities.
- What Makes You The Only?
When focusing on what makes your business unique and different you should be sure you’re not only just different but radically different. Be able to answer the question, what makes you the only _____ that ______ .
- What Should You Add or Subtract?
Don’t confuse your customers. Be sure your business is focused and don’t add new strategic directions merely because your competitors are offering a particular feature or service.
- Who Loves You?
Every brand is built by a community. In addition, every member of that community is important and should be appreciated for their contributions. Showing the value of each customer makes them fall even more in love with you.
- Who Is The Enemy?
Not everyone is an ally. Every business has competitors. When you are doing your research, be sure your strongest and most successful competitor is who you align yourself against when differentiating yourself.
- What Do They Call You?
When hear the question, ‘what’s in a name?’ you should take it very seriously. How your customers define you and what they call you is important. You should be very conscious when selecting your name.
- How Do You Explain Yourself?
All brand communications should originate from a single internal position. This position is referred to as your ‘trueline’. This is the singular thing which you can say based on your brand and its identity.
- How Do You Spread The Word?
Your brand (business) should use one voice when communicating through all marketing channels. In addition, your business communication should disseminate your message through all available channels.
- How Do People Engage With You?
Even before you begin spreading your message and sharing your vision you need to examine how people will connect with you. This involves a bit of a gut check rather than logistics and means getting in touch with your customers.
- What Do They Experience?
More than simply defining how you communicate and how people engage you need to see how experience your business. This means actively seeking out the process from first impression through the entire sales cycle.
- How Do You Earn Their Loyalty?
Keep in mind that loyalty cannot be forced and loyalty cannot be programmed into people. Loyalty is not bought but loyalty is earned. When communicating with your customers and focusing on their user experience you need to keep in mind the importance as it relates to their loyalty.
- How Do You Extend Your Success?
Often the best way to continue to extend success is to grow your brand through a series of additional products or services. This should be done carefully as it can potentially conflict with the early question regarding adding or subtracting from your business.
- How Do You Protect Your Portfolio?
Brand portfolios (a brand house as mentioned in the previous question) face the risk of four specific dangers not found in a single brand. These are specifically: contagion, confusion, contradiction, and complexity. As a business owner you should focus on the differences between stretchiness and stickiness.
Renewing Your Zag
While the bulk of this book focuses on finding your zag and beginning the process, this book also provides valuable resources for renewing your zag if you are an established business who may have potentially lost its focus.
This last section provides key insights for businesses to once again find their uniqueness and their vision. It’s important to recognize the author understands the loss of this radical differentiation is a common problem and rather than avoiding it or pretending it’s in-existence it is much better to acknowledge and address the problem.
I encourage anyone interested in either beginning their own business and identifying their vision and the many other aspects the above questions seek to help to read this book. The resources are valuable and the questions insightful. It is an easy read and yet incredibly helpful to small businesses seeking to establish themselves.
May 30, 2014
The Value of In-Person Meetings
Attending a meeting is an excellent opportunity to share information, expand your learning and make connections with others. Sometimes we would like to believe face to face meetings are not necessary. But there is still an incredibly important value of in-person meetings.
Many people complain about the value of meetings and lament the fact that meeting simply waste valuable time. However, there is, without a doubt, benefits and positive reasons for holding a meeting. Because the idea that meetings are important can be a controversial topic let’s look at a few reasons why we should value the opportunity to hold meetings.
Meetings allow for real-time, direct sharing of ideas
Yes, I have heard people exclaim that a virtual chat room can accomplish the same goals as an in-person meeting, however, if you acknowledge that a discussion is more than just verbal communication Reading people is hard if you’re only typing into a chat. I wrote a post previously on why the art of reading people is important and how to do it well. In fact, I’ve seen stats as high as 90% of meetings are non-verbal. You lose all of that if you do not meet in person. If you’re only typing into a chat, first you have no face-to-face ability as I just mentioned where you can learn more than what is typed. This is important to being successful.
Meetings encourage focused participation
Of course even in meetings where you’re in the same room with people you can find ways to disengage and lose your focus, but the probability is much higher that when in a physical meeting with another person (or group of people) you will spend a higher percentage of your time actively engaged with those you are with. If you’re sitting at your computer for a meeting I guarantee you there will be at least a half-dozen other items demanding your attention. You’ll lose your focus and be out of a conversation before you even realize it. This drastically decreases your involvement, your participation, and ultimately the effectiveness of your communication. Believe it or not, no matter how hard you try to convince everyone you can multi-task, it’s simply not true; and your meeting participants will know you’re not focused.
Meetings are part of the human DNA
Obviously we can’t point to a very specific gene but there have been studies on the value of meetings related to our genetic makeup and chemistry and they have attempted to quantify this through the use of biochemistry and hormones. It’s an interesting concept. As humans we appreciate contact, connections, and communication. Regardless of the actual hormone and biological or chemical triggers which are fired as a result of meeting people the outcome is still very much the same. The value of a handshake (or other culturally accepted greeting) may never be quantified scientifically but I’m sure we can all agree there is an intrinsic feeling of value placed on that connection.
Meetings mean opportunity for informal conversations
Many times virtual meetings, chats, and other conversations which are not held in a face-to-face meeting are recorded. This essentially means everything being said, or shared, is being copied, or recorded, and ability to be referenced, reviewed, and re-read for all eternity to come. We all understand the internet never forgets. People do. When you meet in person with someone you are able to be yourself even more. You can feel more comfortable knowing you are not going to be forever held accountable to what’s said or shared. Of course I’m not saying you’ll share wrong information but you’ll be more at-ease and you’ll be able to connect with others more effectively.
Meetings encourage personal growth
What’s the easiest thing to do? The easiest thing (for most of us) is to slouch comfortably in front of a computer and type our responses. We don’t have to be conscientious about our clothing, our appearance, or something else. Some don’t enjoy speaking in public or speaking with others, the human connection is difficult for you. Meetings held in-person encourage personal growth. You will force yourself to become better, to present yourself effectively, and to focus on someone else. You will become a better person and better communicator. Yes, it might be difficult but meetings encourage personal growth.
I trust that these are somewhat compelling benefits for in-person meetings. You’ll find personal benefits as well as professional benefits come from holding face-to-face meetings. So the next time you’re tempted to skip out on an opportunity to meet in person, be bold, put some clothes on and venture out into the world and hold your meeting in a true in-person meeting.
May 27, 2014
The Art of Reading People
Reading people is absolutely an art. Sure there is an inherent skill to it, but as with other art forms you can learn this skill. If you’re a small business owner the ability to read someone is critically important. You must be able to do more than just talk, you must listen, understand and interpret the responses you receive.
What do I mean when I say “read” someone? Obviously I don’t mean you’re reading literal words off someone’s face but instead I mean listening to what they are saying, thinking about what they mean, and interpreting the non-verbal cues being sent. Non-verbal? Yes, these are critically important to reading and understanding the person you are communicating with. By non-verbal I refer to items such as body posture, facial expressions, and speech intonation.
Why Reading Right Matters
Reading people correctly will allow you to relate with them better, modify or reiterate your message, or even stop and find out why someone may disagree with you. If you read someone wrong you can easily misinterpret something they say or think they understand what you’re expressing when in reality they are completely lost. No one enjoys sticking their foot in their mouth. Even worse, no one likes the feeling when they believe the audience is fully agreeing with them when in reality they simply think the speaker is full of hot air.
Reading someone right is not difficult but takes thought and effort on the part of the speaker. You, as the communicator, must be able to do two things at once (or even more). The small business owner relies on strong relationships and good communication to effectively grow their business. The small business where the owners are able to listen and respond to the needs of their customers and do more than just talk “at” them.
Tips for Reading Right
Look for signs of hesitation
Hesitation can be both a positive signal and a negative signal. Signs of hesitation are little things like questioning eyebrows, perhaps a delay in providing feedback, or even a deep breath. These signs can be instructive in understanding what a person is thinking. Hesitation can be a sign of uncertainty, questions, or even disagreement. Hesitation can also be simply a delay in the communication medium. Be sure you don’t misread hesitation for disagreement. We’ll discuss hesitation and silence a bit more in a later point below. Keep reading.
Watch body posture
Body posture can be an important indicator. There’s a fantastic TED talk given by Amy Cuddy on the topic of body posture. I encourage you to watch the video and learn some great tips about body posture. Amy focuses on how your own body posture affects your outlook but watch the video and analyze it from the perspective of understanding what the various postures mean when you see them in others.
Listen to feedback
This is funny because you’re thinking about being a better speaker. A better speaker and effective communicator does more than talk. Listening to the feedback you receive is important for ensuring your message is clear. Feedback can take many forms. Feedback can be something as simple a sigh, a nod, or a verbal response. When you find yourself talking so much that no one else has an opportunity to respond you are not being an effective speaker and you are failing to read your audience. Be sure to include an opportunity for your audience to give feedback.
Follow the eyes
Humans can be incredibly communicative with only their eyes (and eyebrows). When you’re speaking with someone don’t neglect the eye contact. Of course, there are some cultures where this is seen as impolite; I would expect cultural differences to be taken into account in all of these tactics. You certainly don’t want to offend your audience. By the statement, following the eyes, I also mean being aware of where the other person is looking, if they are not looking at you, if they appear distracted or otherwise disinterested then you are not affectively communicating. Be sure you don’t lose your audience by not reading their eyes.
Interpret the silence
There is an old phrase, “silence is golden”. There’s a lot of truth in those simple three words. Don’t panic if there’s a moment of silence in the conversation. It’s ok to have a pause. This was a particular part of reading someone which I have been learning (very slowly I admit). I’ve always struggled with allowing longer periods of silence. I felt this meant there was confusion and I needed to clarify. Or that I wasn’t soliciting the right feedback. The truth can be very different. The topic you’re sharing is something you’ve probably spent many hours thinking about, mulling over, and preparing how you want to say it. You should not expect your audience to immediately understand everything you say. They will need time to process. They will need to be allowed the courtesy of silence to sift through what you’ve said and form their opinion. Be sure you’re interpreting the silence correctly.
Reading without Interrogating
This can be a very difficult skill to learn. In fact, this is where I struggle the most myself. Too many questions, too many attempts at trying to ‘figure out’ what someone is thinking and feeling can leave them feeling a bit interrogated. Remember the goal is not to analyze every movement and every thought. The purpose of reading someone is to make sure you effectively deliver your message and communicate properly. It does not mean persuading someone to agree with you. Let me say that again in a different way,
Reading someone’s response is an important tool for effective communication; it is not for the purpose of persuasion.
If you find yourself watching non-verbal cues too intently and you start to get the sense the person is feeling a bit overwhelmed and a scrutinized then you need to be sure you tone it down a bit. Relax your questioning and take a more casual stance. This helps restore a two-way communication and takes away the sense of being ‘under-the-spotlight’.
Reading people is important, and the above tips can help you become an even more effective communicator. Take time to practice and learn this art form.
May 20, 2014
Small Business Is More Than A Product
When you are beginning a small business you often start with a vision, an idea or a dream of what you want your company to become. This product (service) is what you see as the key foundational cornerstone of your business. But a successful small business is much more than a product.
The First Thought
Sure, every small business (or any business for that matter) begins because the founders saw a need, saw a problem, and figured out a solution to the problem. It may have begun because they found a deficiency in their own lives where they really needed a certain outcome and could find nothing to meet their needs.
Necessity is the mother of invention.
Along the way these founders realized there must be others with similar problems also interested in a successful solution. This is where it gets fun. These individuals turn from problem solvers to entrepreneurs. No longer are they simply working out a solution for their own needs. Now they have decided to share this solution with others. The wheels start to turn and they begin to realize they could charge a nominal fee and generate revenue on this product. This point where things get very serious.
Small Businesses Must Plan Ahead
The creation of a product which meets a need is not a business. A small business is much more than simply the product you wish to sell. This is an oft forgotten aspect of starting a new business. You as the founder of a small business will be wearing many different hats and you will be forced to consider many decisions beyond just the product you’re selling. Small businesses must plan out a road map for their future.
You must look at not only the immediate future of what you want to sell but you must also focus on where you want to be in 6 months or more. You should set out a plan (and be sure to set realistic goals and deadlines) which you will then follow as you build and grow your business.
Small Businesses Take Work
I’m sure everyone who has started a small business understands it takes an incredible amount of work to establish a successful business. Small businesses are a great starting point for growing larger companies or even building a sustainable small business. Again, it’s far more than a product. In fact, it’s more than just a product and a website.
I’d like to take some time in this article and address a short list of things you should plan on as well as work to be done when launching a small business.
Behind the Scenes
I’m going to call this group of items the “behind the scenes” items. These are things most of your customers won’t see or interact with but are vitally important for you to take care of before attempting to launch your small business.
- Legal Business Name & Incorporation Type
I plan to write a full article on this single topic as it is one of the trickiest and often more difficult items to consider when starting a new business. For brevity in this post I think it’s suffice to say, don’t forget to select an incorporation type (LLC, S-Corp, C-Corp, DBA, etc…). This includes your articles of incorporation, membership shares, by-laws and more. Also be sure you have your business name filed with your required government authorities.
- Bank Accounts
This might seem obvious but I’ve seen it firsthand where a business has been created, a product released and suddenly customers are interested in purchasing and the business doesn’t have the necessary bank account to take the money! It’s almost laughable, but I assure you it happens.
- Merchant Accounts & Credit Processing
If you anticipate taking funds via credit cards, check cards, online payments (bitcoins) etc.. you need to be sure you select a merchant account, a credit card processor, or other digital payment processor. Things like setting up a PayPal account take a little bit of time and you will need to have your bank accounts and business information (EIN) handy.
The next set of items I’m going to label as “customer interface”. These are the items which the customer sees and interacts with. Important items to consider in this category are listed as follows:
- Customer Website
Again, this might feel basic and quite obvious, but don’t neglect this vitally important piece. Your website needs to be easy to navigate, simple to find, and clear in its purpose. Be sure you capture your audience’s eye and focus their attention on the appropriate things. Oh, and be sure you’re targeting the right customer (again, for another day).
- Product Delivery
Plan how you will be delivering your product to your customer. Will they be digitally downloading your product? Will you need to capture shipping information and process shipping? If you are selling digital goods will you offer a one-time download or multiple downloads? (i.e. Will you establish a membership website and customer portal?). Be sure to plan out how the customer gets what they pay for. You want this process to continue building their confidence they have chosen the right company and you want to keep them from any buyer’s remorse.
- Follow Up
What will you do after they have purchased your product? Are you going to add them to a mailing list? Will you email them additional information. Perhaps a physical card in the mail would be appropriate. Be sure to consider how you will continue to build a relationship with your customer. This is the point where a single-time customer will not only become a repeat customer but will also become a salesperson for you to their friends. This is the sweet spot.
- Support Center
Don’t blindly think every sale will be perfect and every customer a happy one. As mush as you want to believe they all know what they are purchasing and what you are providing there will always be those times when clarification is necessary or support is required. How will you handle support? Setting up a member’s area with a support desk tool is one option. Email support and phone support are also ways to support your product. Whatever you choose as most appropriate for your business, be sure it’s ready on launch day.
Whew! That is a lot of work. Starting a small business is definitely much more than a product. And there are still other things to consider. However, I don’t want anyone feeling overwhelmed so I will leave the rest for a future post. We’ll assume at this point you’ve taken care of all the above and you have just launched your website, held your grand opening, and invited your first customers into the store. Are you done?
Absolutely not. I often find myself telling people:
You can create the world’s most beautiful website, and have the most amazing product, but it will do no good if no one ever sees it.
In the next article we’ll look at what to do after you’ve launched your product. Now that you have your small business foundation started, we’ll explore how you can make it successful.
Please let me know if you have other ideas of important things to consider when building a small business. I’d love to hear from you.
Remember, we’re all in this together!
May 14, 2014
Increase Your Company Size with Open Source
In honor of small business week, I felt this post would be an appropriate one. Small businesses often have apprehensions when entering a meeting with a potential client. One question in particular presents considerable problems. How many people are in your company?
There’s a number of myths lending to this unnecessary fear. And yes, I believe it’s unnecessary. Let’s look at these myths and then examine the truth.
Myth: Small Beginnings are Bad
It can be easy to forget that every business had to start somewhere. Of course we’ve heard all the grand stories of the humble beginnings behind mammoth corporations. We’ve enjoyed the nostalgic references to beginning in a garage. In fact, here’s 5 quick ones: Amazon, Apple, Disney, Google, Hewlett-Packard.
And thus it’s established. Even some of the largest businesses in the world had small beginnings. Why then should you be bothered because your company is small? This comes down to perception. You quickly accept and even enjoy hearing the stories of how giant companies began. In fact, you can relate to them quite easily. But there’s a disconnect between the past and the present. You view the past through the eyes of the present. Because they are now an incredibly large and successful company they are somehow validated.
Myth: Small Businesses Lack Expertise
I’ve heard and seen firsthand small businesses who mistakenly equate company size with expertise and experience. Small businesses are founded by individuals. Individuals with a goal and a dream. They start by seeing a problem and forming a solution. Perhaps it is for themselves, perhaps it is for others. Either way they devote their energy to creating a business built around their solution. By the very nature of creating a solution they become an expert.
Unfortunately many small businesses as a result of their background and way of forming discredit their own expertise. Sadly, they believe larger companies with more employees and more managers somehow magically have more expertise. Obviously there’s a greater opportunity for experts within a larger company, but it’s not guaranteed.
Myth: Small Businesses Are Missing Credibility
Thankfully this reason has become a bit less in recent years, however I still hear this referenced on occasion. Small business lacks credibility because its less substantial than some large brick-and-mortar corporation. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. The size of a business is not what establishes credibility. There are hundreds of examples of large corporations which hold massive buildings and substantial employee lists with little to no credibility.
The size of your business is not what grants credibility. Rather the quality of your work and the testimony of your customers are what establish your credibility and your trustworthiness. Whether your company is a company of one or one hundred the true basis for your business credibility lies in your customers.
Credibility comes from the quality of your work and the testimonials of your customers, not the size of your company.
Small businesses are the backbone of economies around the globe. Every business began as a small business. There is no shame in a small business and a small business can most definitely hold immense credibility and demonstrate expertise in their field.
The next couple of questions are perhaps the most interesting. How does this relate to open source and how does open source increase the size of your company?
Fact: Open Source is Global
This is where small business is no longer a small business. Open source is more than code. Open source is a community. As a result, when a small business uses open source they are no longer working alone. Instead this joining of a business to an open source community increases the pool of knowledge, of experts, of potential partnerships incredibly. No longer is this small business working alone. They are now a part of a community, something bigger than just themselves.
Small businesses using open source can boldly share the size of the community as yet one more reason to trust in them. Again, the myths above are simply myths. The truth is open source provides a global community filled with more individuals than any single company. Your clients can rest assured there is a pool of available resources existing far beyond the size of your company.
Fact: Open Source is Available
The small business which contributes and uses open source in their solutions leverage the availability of an open source community. Time and geographic constraints which most businesses face are less important when a company is built on an open source system where contributions and volunteers exist around the world and span every timezone. The availability of open source enhances the availability of your own business as well.
Fact: Open Source is Dependable
The communities surrounding an open source project are an intimate gathering of volunteers passionate about the project they contribute to. As mentioned earlier, by being global and available, established open source communities are dependable. They can be relied on and they lend credibility to those small businesses which build on them. Small businesses do well to build on open source, contribute back to open source, and become a part of an open source community. By doing so, they enhance both the credibility of the project and their own credibility.
Simply put, those small businesses which place value on open source and integrate open source throughout their business will quickly find the value of open source. Small businesses grow in size, in location, in availability, and in dependability by leveraging the power of open source. Open source increases far more than your company size. Don’t neglect this valuable resource when growing your small business. And never be ashamed of where you began.
May 13, 2014
Free Marketing Ideas for Small Business
Most small businesses also have small marketing budgets. And it’s pretty much a fact of life that there will always be bigger companies with bigger budgets working in the same space. How can the little guy get noticed?
There are a variety of ways a small business can effectively market themselves and their product without competing in the paid marketing arena so easily dominated by larger companies. Below is a short list of 10 ways you can generate traffic and interest in your company without breaking the bank. That’s right, free marketing. Remember, these are in no particular order. Try to apply some of these to your business and see if you have more success than the larger companies.
1. Make Your Size Matter
Find the benefits of having a smaller company size in your particular market. Does it increase your customer care? Then brag about it. Figure out the ways in which your size is a positive over the other companies in your same industry. It’s not always the best thing to be the biggest company around.
2. Take Advantage of Social Media
Social media provides an excellent opportunity for leveling a playing field. You can create a Facebook page or Twitter account just as easily as the next company. And there’s no reason not to. Of course there are paid or “promoted” tweets and advertising opportunities on other social media. Even still, the opportunity to interact with your users one-on-one and do more than just shout into a void exists for all companies equally. I’ll have a full post in the future on proper use of social media.
Everyone can write. Sure it takes some people longer than others to write good content, but there is no cost obstacle to writing. This is often the single biggest hurdle that businesses must overcome. Often writing is seen as a time-consuming venture which does not yield a return. The truth is writing fresh content can be the single biggest factor for improving your on-site SEO and although the return is not immediate, there is absolutely an incredible amount of value in good content.
4. Be the Expert
Small businesses usually started because the founder(s) knew something. They saw a problem and they created a solution. They are experts at what they do. When competing with a big company the best thing the little guy can do is to establish themselves as an expert in their field. Showcase why you do what you do and why you’re passionate about it.
Focus on what makes you different and those areas where your knowledge makes you more powerful.
5. Feature Guests
Don’t be afraid to reach out to others to have them post information to your website. This will first of all encourage others to point traffic to your site, and secondly, will show that you are open to connections and sharing of information. Everyone is eager to share things they are working on and when they have an opportunity to share that on someone’s site they will not only be willing to guest appear, they will tell everyone they know about it. This will help your small business stay relevant in the industry and become a worthy competitor.
6. Build Lists
Everyone likes to be put on a list (as long as its a positive list). If you are in an industry where you can compile a top 10 (top 100?) then be sure to do so. Not only will you have many other people now interested in where they ranked and how they did but they will also understand you’ve spent time reviewing each. This points again to your expertise in your field. Be sure to do this thoughtfully and carefully.
7. Go Local
Big companies very often fail to understand the nuances and differences of a small community. Small businesses which are involved in their local community understand those details and as a result can meet the needs of their local groups more effectively. You may not get the best business from your local community, but word of mouth spreads rapidly and the more you are involved locally the better chance you have of being recognized elsewhere. Good work spreads.
8. Get Involved
As a small business its important to find ways to be involved. Involved in your local community (as mentioned above) but also involved in your industry. Find the trade shows, the meet-ups, the other places where like-minded people from your field are gathering, and get involved. You don’t have to have the biggest and best booth – in fact you don’t have to have a booth at all. Just be present, shake hands, introduce yourself, make friends.
9. Be Original
Small businesses should never try to just mimic the behemoth company. Of course there are always things to be learned from the others and especially the big companies which have been successful. However, small businesses should focus on what makes them unique and original. This ties into several of the points above. It’s all about finding a niche, demonstrating expertise and differentiating. Being original means being true to the character of the founder and creating the right type of company culture.
Similar to the previous point about being original, the best possible thing is to be willing to be innovative. Capitalize on your company size and your ability to pivot quickly. Find the failure points in the business field you’re in and capitalize on them. Don’t follow the status quo. Be willing to take chances and make changes which the big company will be too reticent to make. Use your size to your advantage and suddenly your perceived weakness (being small) becomes one of your greatest assets.
Small businesses make up the majority of the economy and there is absolutely nothing wrong with being a small business. I love them and love working in them. Just because there is no multi-million dollar marketing budget does not mean we cannot compete with the bigger companies. You don’t have to spend money to have a great marketing campaign. Use some of the points above and begin building your traffic and your audience without spending a penny.
Remember, we’re all in this together.