Small business? Dare to be different!

Why do I love working with small businesses? They are unique, with unique personalities. Small businesses have things to offer that large businesses cannot compete with. Sadly, many don't understand the power they have ... or how to use it.

Small businesses have the ability to be nimble - to make decisions more quickly with less bureaucracy. Use this to your advantage!

If you are copying the competition, you are only producing more of the same

So you had a dream and you launched a business. You looked around to see what the competition was doing and made sure you offered all the same type of products and services so you would be considered competitive in your field. You compared your costs to theirs. You visited their websites to see how you sized up. When one of your competitors offered a new service, you moved quickly to see if you were able to do the same.

Congratulations. You have done a great job at getting into business and creating a mirror company of everything else out there. I'm not being sarcastic, this is a big feat in and of itself. But in order to stand apart, it's type to embrace your uniqueness.

Focus on what you do well, and become the best at it

What made you decide to get into business in the first place? Fill in this blank: I love to ________. When you started your business, you choose your field because there was something you really enjoyed about it.

If you are trying to be everything to everybody, you are likely adding areas of service or products that are not a natural fit for you. Expanding into an area without adding quality is merely using up resources for minimal returns.

Find a way to do what you do well, and then do it best. Become the leader in that area. Become known for your specialty. Be the leader in your specialty.

What can you offer that is unique?

Think about what you and your staff excel at. Think about the business contacts you have and how you may use your know-how, resources and contacts to create something new and different. Customers are always looking for something new and are attracted to unique programs. 

Are you a gym offering acrobatics instruction? Create a bread and butter business program offering circus birthday parties! Are you an orthodontist that sees kids all day, every day? Partner with local children's businesses and programs to create memorable experiences for children.

Take a look at who and what you have around you, what you enjoy about that experience, and find a way to offer it to your customers.

Find a hole and fill it

What are your competitors not doing well? Are they a cash or check only business? Offer credit card sales. Do they only sell in their store? Create an easy-to-navigate online store. Is it hard to find what you are looking for when you enter their store? Make a strong flow and memorable, consistent placement of your items, products or services.

Create superior customer service - every time

When you treat a customer as King (or Queen, Princess, etc.), you're not just pampering them, you are putting them at ease. They are more willing to trust you with their time and their money if they know you have their interests at heart. 

Whether your customers are running errands, checking items off a list or exploring a new service, they are likely to be worn out and frustrated, just due to life stress. How you greet and treat them will set the tone for their experience. Are you just another hassle in their day, or did you turn their day around? If you turn their day around, they will come back for more of those pleasant interactions.

People remember nice. They also remember genuine, so hire staff who genuinely enjoy interacting with customers. It is difficult to keep up good service if it is an act, and if someone has a bad day, it becomes impossible. Investing in the right staff is crucial to growing your business.

Also, don't be scared to say "No questions asked." Think about the last time you went to Target. You were not nervous to make a purchase, even if you weren't sure of the size, color or style. You were ok with purchasing it and taking it home knowing that if it wasn't what you were looking for, you could return it for any reason. And they made it easy, you didn't need a receipt to make your return. It made you more willing to take the chance, knowing that it wasn't necessarily final. 

Be memorable

Embrace your quirkiness! Don't be afraid to be fun. Create silly videos, have a flash mob erupt in your store. Place little silly phrases in your products or packaging. Surprise your customers with the unexpected.