Want to stand out from the crowd? Here is a guest blog on profiling your small business, including three ways to stand out from the crowd...
For every small business just starting out, a burning question that has to be answered is how it will stand out from the mass of competitors.
Various figures are bandied around as to the failure rate of new small businesses one commonly-quoted figure is 50% in the first five years. Just one of the reasons why small businesses fold is the failure of the startup to make its voice heard in the crowd.
So how do we come up with an idea for a business that will give us the best possible chance of success from the outset and gain us a healthy, stable and growing client base that will ensure we thrive in the long-term?
Your new business has to find a place of its own in the market, and that means carefully profiling it from day one. Here are three suggestions for how you might approach this hopefully you will find them useful, you certainly should not start your new business without at least considering all three of these points:
1. Think of a business idea that no-one has ever had before. This is the most difficult approach by far it not only takes an original and visionary idea, it also means you have to persuade your potential customers that they cannot live without whatever it is you are offering. One of my favourite, successful examples of this is the GroBag baby sleeping bag, that you zip your baby into and is both safer and more convenient than covering her with a blanket. It is an example of a product that did not exist before, at least not in a neat, marketable form, but when it did appear was so obviously something everybody with a baby needed that it was a rapid success.
Do you have an idea for a product or service that people really want or even need, even if they dont realise it yet? Untold riches could be yours if you can make it a success.
However, this is an approach that is fraught with risk SO many business ideas end up failing miserably because their author hugely overestimated their potential. You only need look at the countless great-idea internet start-ups that fold every year to convince you of this. There are much less risky ways to start a new business.
2. Do something someone else is doing, but do it better. Now, this is where things get a little easier. Instead of coming up with an amazing visionary idea that may fall on its face straight out of the gate, you can play it a little safer. Find your local or national business directory, open it up and start researching. What are the obviously successful products or services (clue: there will be lots of companies offering them)? How could you do what they are all doing, but better?
We recently had a massive cockroach problem in our apartment building everywhere was teeming with them, it was hideous. We tried several pest control companies, but none of them succeeded in ridding us of the vile creatures more than temporarily. All they did was come and spray some stuff around the place even I could see that wasnt going to have much of a long-term effect. At the end of the day I didnt pay them to spray insects, I wanted them to get rid of them to solve the problem. I would have paid good money to find a decent pest control company at that point, one that had obvious expertise, understood my need and would come and provide a definitive solution.
Another example is bakeries it seems that every month somebody opens a new bakery in our neighbourhood (to replace one that folded). Yet most of them have done nothing to differentiate themselves from all the existing bakeries no wonder they cant attract customers. The exception is a new bakery that has called itself something along the lines of Bread like Granny made (loose translation). It sells breads and other pastries that are free of additives, use whole wheat and other grains and are baked to traditional recipes. It has also made a big effort with the interior, creating a traditional homey feel. I am sure it is going to be a success they have already opened up several new branches around town.
Can you see a market where you could essentially do what everyone else is doing, but do it a whole lot better better service, better products, better prices, better marketing, better attitude towards customers? I guarantee you that in most industries this is not hard to do at all.
3. Do what everyone else is doing, but specialise (find a niche). Oh yes, and do it better than anyone else. Many companies try to be all things to everyone, for fear of letting potential business slip through their fingers. This is very much the case in my field, the translation industry. Many translation agencies cast their net far and wide, advertising translation in all language combinations, all fields of expertise. But if you contact them to ask for translation of an engineering document from Swahili to Japanese, it is highly unlikely they will be able to oblige you, or at least produce work to any standard of quality. This was the reason I decided to profile my company exclusively to serve one translation pair (Serbian-English) and work on creating the best possible service in that narrow field, and we regularly refuse work that does not fit in with this. You can do the same in almost any industry. What about a pest extermination company that focuses only on a particular type of cockroach? What about a dog-walking service catering exclusively to Alsatians. Or maybe a company that makes plastic food boxes made to house specific fruits? Oh wait, that last ones been done ever heard of Banana Guard? They are now a multi-million business making cool plastic containers for different fruits, sandwiches etc. but they started from one very specialised, if quirky, flagship product.
Of course, you have to make a rational assessment of the potential market for a product or service and not aim too narrow. Probably your idea could be a little less outlandish than the ones I have just given but I hope this has got you thinking. The message is: find yourself a niche and work to become the go-to guys/girls that everyone calls.
Whatever approach you decide on in profiling your new small business it is of vital importance that it stands out in some way, whether in the originality, the quality or the specialisation of its products or services. This will give you a huge market advantage from day one and greatly increase your chances for long-term success.
Mark Daniels is British-born but based in Serbia since 1996. He is founder/manager of a small but growing business, Odista Serbian-English Translation Services, and is also the author of an introductory guide for freelance translators called How to Become a Translator: Breaking into the freelance translation business.
Image by welshwitch36 on Flickr
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