The bad thing about small businesses is that they are small. They have limited resources, limited number of existing clients (if any) when starting out and limited workforce. The good news is that more than 70 percent of Americans, according to a Pew survey, regard small businesses more favorably than even religious institutions.
Small businesses are niche; they have a much targeted customer group which they like to take care of. It is not that the big names are rude, but you do get more automated voices asking you to press this or that if you want that or this service when you call them. It is mostly when dealing with small businesses that you find the old world comfort of listening to a human voice on the other side of the telephone.
We started with the ‘bad thing’ but now we have more good news: it is actually easy to build your small business, grow it to create what you dreamed it should be like and make it stand out distinctively if you bear in mind just a few pointers (and work on them).
1. Concept of the Brand
What is a brand, after all, but an idea of something? If you look at the logos of the giants, you know instantly what they represent and, more accurately, what you can expect of them. The brand being an idea, it is essential that it be a good idea and that it is made to spread itself out as far and as strongly as possible. And an idea can be made to do all that only when it is not too complicated. The brand name you choose for yourself does not absolutely have to be self explanatory, but it certainly helps if it is.
Look at this site on oil scams and you’ll know instantly what we mean. Agreed, Nike is not as self explanatory and Adidas is an acronym, but they are catchy and pithy. You want a brand name that explains itself or/and you want something that is likely to be remembered easily. You can change your brand name down the road, some companies do that, but it is not recommended especially if you are still a small business and don’t have the resources to spread the word of the change as wide as you’d like to. Remember also that totally irrelevant names have worked as well. Apple and Orange don’t sell fruits, do they? And Amazon does not invariably bring to the mind some mythical warrior woman, right?
Getting your name and logo right is the main thing and there are a number of ways to go about it. Some we have already referred to, and there are others, like Spud mobile which is immediately self-explanatory. Havahart, with a heart logo pretty much makes it clear to you even without reading the content in detail that here you have a number of humane or ‘caring’ animal control solutions.
2. Being Comprehensive and Standing Out
The brand name is the beginning. Your site content must show that you have ALL that the potential customer may require in your line of specialization. Remember that old anecdote about two stores across a street? One said ‘We have all that you need’, but the sign on the opposite side read ‘If we don’t have it you don’t need it’! Well, you need the second approach to make a distinctive mark.
Take this site on commercial services, for example. They have a pretty good headline: ‘One Call … Handles It All!’ And that is followed immediately by ‘What is the Haller Difference?’ Here we have a great example of comprehensive and distinctive on the same page.
This next one on fulfillment services does not have anything catchy but it is nothing if not comprehensive. After you are done looking at the impressive list on the left sidebar you will want to read through the lucidly written content – and quite possibly, feel good about having arrived on the site.
Dropbox is an excellent example of an innovative solution that people would love to share. As we all know, cloud storage is the in thing today, and surprisingly, it took the Dropbox concept to make it so in spite of the fact that email boxes were already expanding their capacity to monstrous proportions compared to those of the yesteryear. Remember the 2mb storage of Mail City?
3. Becoming the Competition
If you showcase on your website not just what makes you distinct but also what puts you ahead of your competitors, you turn yourself into the competition that others would like emulate.
On this site on cat backhoe, the introductory paragraphs gives you a very concise yet effective account of what the company stands for and how long it has been in business. And those few short lines later, the part about ‘that’s stability you can count on’ begins to make complete sense. Having said that, however, the more visual you are the better, and instead of offering just words (however impressive), this second site on CAT backhoe has a video to let the potential customer view the machine in action. This is simple, intelligent and effective marketing that can help you edge out the competition – by focusing on something that works which they have not done.
This approach is also presenting a value proposition, only, in a subtle manner. A proper value proposition will tell your customers what is so special about a relationship with you. This is independent of price or discounts or other tangible benefits. This is more about the person (not just a faceless company) they will be dealing with, the reliability they can expect, the goodwill that the company already lives up to, and similar aspects. Social media can take care of most of this quite effectively, but this site with the video has already taken the first steps in ensuring transparency. They have demonstrated that they are open to scrutiny and that does put the buyer more at ease than mere words would.
4. Go Niche
Specialize, and then some! Don’t focus wide – there are the big players for that. This website is selling gardening products, but it has targeted a niche audience by specializing in organic gardening products. Look at the brand name, too: Safer – kind of makes you admit whether you willingly do it or not that this is, indeed, is the safer brand to choose from. Look at etoys. com for more inspiration: they are selling toys, for heaven’s sake, but they are doing it in such niche style – ‘e-toys’ – ones you can order online only. It is not that other stores don’t offer to ship toys online, but stating it through your brand and your entire website makes all the difference. When people think of buying toys online, they go to etoys. When search engines respond to queries on ‘buy toys online’ they churn out results from etoys because selling toys online is what they explicitly state they specialize in.
Organic Gardening Products
5. Build Around Yourself
What we talked about regarding value proposition, earlier, you can achieve with a community around yourself. In the era gone by, forums attached to a main site were the only option. Today, you have social media sites and their groups and communities of likeminded people (in addition to the forums which continue to thrive).
Don’t spread yourself too thin because you are supposed to socially interact with your fans and members on a day to day (if not hourly) basis, but definitely have a pronounced social presence. Everybody loves an underdog and that’s what small businesses are. And if that underdog is sociable, nothing like it. You can generate a heady mix of empathy and admiration from your target audience if you play your cards right.
Don’t misunderstand our intent – by playing we mean doing it skillfully, not wrongfully. You need to be honest and open and genuinely caring. You need to be answering queries and complaints politely and then trying to do something to make things right if they are wrong. You need to be seen and heard and felt as a real human presence instead of an entity out to make money. And when you are all of that, there really will be no stopping you.
Whether you can become one of the big players eventually (if that’s your goal) in this manner is a different matter altogether, but you can sure as heck be the best you can in your small business segment, with some focused and genuine social skills.
For inspiration, look at the video by Costello Builders on YouTube: the beautiful visuals say it all and serve as an excellent portfolio for the company. Check out twitter.com/someecards and their cheerful and good natured publicizing of themselves: ‘… You’ll love not unfollowing us!’ Look also at the Page on facebook.com/squattypotty: ‘Keep calm and squat on’ they say! Marketing is one thing, but humor never fails when it comes to getting people together whether it is for relieving yourself or for building it up from scratch and sending a card while you are at it.