Hard work and determination are the foundations to any successful business. Working hard however isn’t enough for your business to thrive in today’s market. Here are steps that you can take to differentiate and set yourself apart.
1. Identify your Unique Selling Point
When it comes to business strategy, there are only two ways to set yourself apart from your competitors. It is either using a “cost strategy” or a “differentiation strategy.”
Walmart for example uses the “cost strategy”, being the lowest cost retailer. The German automaker BMW, uses the “differentiation strategy”, creating cars that are the Ultimate Driving Machine. This is how they can charge more than other automakers, by selling premium cars.
Whether it is a cost or differentiation strategy, you want to have a unique selling point (USP) that sets you apart from your competitors. Is your USP going to focus on offering more value at a lower price? Or will it be offering a service or product your competitors don’t offer?
Before starting any business, research and develop your USP. If possible, try to test your USP and see if there is a market for it. Half of all new start-ups fail within five years. The primary reason is because there is no market for the service or product. The second reason is lack of capital.
If you are in market where barriers to entry are low and it is easy for anyone to start a business in your industry, your USP is even more important. You want your potential customers to know why they should come to your business.
When creating your USP, focus on what you have that your competitors don’t. Focus on showcasing exactly why someone should buy (or buy into) your product or service, right now. This will help you prioritize and provide focus.
2. Know Your Clientele
Once you know there is a market for your business, the next step is to know who your ideal customer is. Create an avatar of your perfect customer: what gender, what age, what likes, tastes, and hobbies do they have?
Once you know them, you can understand them. When you know what they expect, then it will be easier to deliver your product or service to them. By knowing your clientele you can also customize your USP. Over time you will find that your USP will change to meet their needs. It becomes a symbiotic relationship.
Your client’s taste and needs will change over time. To stay relevant you need to continuously engage and adapt to their needs. This will separate companies that stay in business versus businesses that don’t. The perfect example is Best Buy and Circuit City. Amazon was taking business away and it was clear that client tastes had changed. Best Buy adapted its USP by allowing price matching and investing in Geek Squad. Circuit City didn’t change their USP in time, eventually closing its doors.
3. Leverage the Right Technology
Technology has leveled the playing field, allowing small businesses and startups to have the same data big businesses have. From websites, communication technology to stay engaged with your customers to e-commerce platforms to sell your products, the right combination of technology can greatly increase your revenue and reduce your costs.
You need to ensure that the technology you use runs smoothly, as well as protect and improve your org’s security with Electric. Businesses can use technology that delivers central console management of company devices with real-time visibility. This can give you greater peace of mind when ensuring you control your company’s hardware and software.
4. Create a Marketing Plan
Despite having the best product/service or USP, if no one knows about it, no one will buy it. At the same time, you don’t want to have an ineffective marketing plan that wastes money and resources.
Marketing is a great way to build your client list and develop relationships. An effective marketing plan will maximize your budget and attract your ideal client. Marketing however can be a full-time job. Here are some you can save time and money using these automated marketing tasks.
5. Focus on Being Effective and Efficient
Focus on your business’ productivity, ensuring that you are adopting best practices wherever possible. With limited time and resources, you want to focus on doing the right things (be effective) right (and efficient).
Are there any processes that could be automated or carried out more efficiently? You need to critically assess your business’ day-to-day operations and address any areas that you feel could be more effective.
6. Monitor Your Cash Flow
Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business and needs to be closely monitored. In addition to keeping track of revenue and expenses, you want to ensure that keep track of taxes and any other business administrative expenses.
If you don’t like numbers or being detailed-oriented, look to outsource. Especially if you have employees, you want to make sure you are paying proper payroll and self-employment taxes. Many businesses get into trouble when they fail to take into account this in their budget.
7. Hire the Right People
You can only build a great company around great people. Be sure to take time in hiring the right people. Having employees that aren’t team players will ruin any company, even one with the best products and services.
Once you have the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus and more importantly the right people in the right seat, ensure you focus on their development and team cohesion. Be clear in their job responsibilities and give them the tools they need to succeed.
You are only as good as your team. An engaged and motivated team is crucial for your business. Ensure that they feel valued, give them feedback, and be proactive in solving problems.
8. Focus on Your Self-Development
Being a leader comes with great responsibility and its challenges. Great leaders are great readers. It is important to continue learning and developing your technical and leadership skills.
Leading is about guiding, coaching, inspiring and motivating. Learn to communicate with your team, develop your emotional intelligence, and how to navigate through any obstacles you may or are facing. Get mentors and don’t be afraid to ask for counsel. Excellence is a habit, it must be proactively developed.
9. Build, Measure, Test
You need to regularly review and revise your business goals and systems. In today’s economy, look to build a minimum viable product, test and measure its success, then iterate quickly.
In the past big companies usually beat the small; in today’s market the fast companies beat the slow. It is important to not rest on your laurels and constantly find ways of improving. Being innovative requires trial and error and understanding that failure is part of the process of creating a better product or service.
Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Constructive feedback may seem uncomfortable at first, but it is essential for knowing how to improve. If things don’t work, try to find out why. Continue to review regularly and adapt as necessary.