It’s no secret that half of all businesses fail within their first five years. One-fifth even fail to make it through their first year. There are a lot of reasons for a business to close its doors, but one of the most critical mistakes that entrepreneurs make is failing to stand out in a packed marketplace. Here are five strategies that you can use to set your business apart.
1. Rethink Customer Service
A 2015 poll by Microsoft revealed the sorry state of phone-based customer service. Only 28% of customers called customer service as a first option for solving a problem. A whopping 75% reported feeling frustrated even if their problem was eventually solved over the phone. Traditional customer service can be a stressful, alienating chore. The best modern customer service is text message and social media-focused. A majority of customers prefer to talk to a company via text or messenger. Why? Because it’s straightforward, personal and happens on their own schedule. A good social media management tool can be a tremendous help in juggling outreach to customers across multiple media platforms.
2. Streamline Your Focus
Common sense would seem to dictate that the broader your focus, the more customers you’ll attract. That’s actually not the case. In fact, more and more small businesses are seeing the wisdom of micro-niche marketing. Micro-niches are specialized subsets of an already specific market. For example, a niche is camping supplies. A micro-niche is high-end trail hiking gear. Successfully cornering the majority of the market in a very small market is a great way of guaranteeing visibility and customer loyalty. Note that this will mean refining your approach to specifically target that slender demographic. Make sure that you know your product and your audience well.
3. Make Your Brand Unforgettable (Literally)
There is a definite science to making your brand stick in the minds of consumers, so design your website using the cutting edge of brain science. The eye tends to follow certain patterns when reading a page, so place your logo where it will be seen first (typically in the top left corner). Color psychology can be used in marketing to convey different emotions. Cool colors such as blue signal calm and stability, which influences customers’ perception of your legitimacy. Black projects sophistication as white does neutrality. All of these seemingly minor iconography decisions make a major impact on what exactly customers think your brand is saying about itself.
4. Focus on Quality
How many times have you walked into a pizza shop and had a so-so piece of pizza? Now, how often have you recommended that lackluster place to a friend? Studies show that the quality of a product is a more important factor than price to the average consumer when they’re considering whether or not to make a purchase. It’s easy for business owners to cut the cost of their inventory by justifying the short-term savings that it garners. But in a competitive (and demanding) marketplace, you can’t count on customers showing loyalty to a middling brand. Whether your product stands out through aesthetics, reliability or sheer uniqueness, value matters.
5. Work to Improve Your Community
Research shows that customers overwhelmingly prefer to shop from a brand that has a vision of responsibility to the world above and beyond simply making money. A recent Nielsen poll showed, for example, that brands that claim sustainability as a core practice routinely outperform other comparable brands in sales. Whatever the word “responsibility” means to you, make sure that your business lives out its ideals in some visible and impactful way, whether that means community activism, an insistence on fair trade or just local pride. Make the world that your customers live in a better place, and you’ll have earned their loyalty.
The bottom line is this: In a world full of copies, you have to be an original. The marketplace is getting more crowded all the time. That’s a lot of noise out there, and the best way for your business to cut through that chatter is to boldly stand out.