In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, social agony, and the instability of finances, the number of businesses facing a financial crisis spiked all over the world. If you’re one of the millions of people worldwide forced out of your job or career due to the pandemic, you may be thinking about starting your own business. With bills to pay and little income, more and more people were forced out of their comfort zones, especially people of color and women facing twin problems of low-wage work and childcare for students learning virtually. Faced with diminishing job prospects, even as world economies begin the long recovery process, many people feel that starting their own business or entering the gig economy is the best option. Starting your own business allows you to follow your interests, passions, and talents to build an income that potentially exceeds other income options. Additionally, experienced business owners were forced to explore new ways to stand out from the competition and garner sales from consumers who are increasingly wary of going into debt or even spending their paychecks as they had as late as the beginning of the pandemic. Here are a few tips to help your business stand out in 2021.
6 Ways to help your business stand out
To help your business stand out in 2021, or any other time for that matter, requires you to build a sustainable competitive advantage that sets you apart from your competition. Moreover, that sustainable advantage must be something valued by a large enough segment of your target market to ensure profitability.
Sustainable competitive advantage means that you do something better than any of your competitors. By sustainable, we mean that your competitive advantage is hard to match, that your competitive advantage lasts far into the future. Thus, price isn’t a great competitive advantage since it is easily and quickly copied, with each firm driving toward offering the lowest price. Such competition often drives the least efficient businesses out of the marketplace and weakens the financial stability of the remaining competitors. The only time price acts as a sustainable competitive advantage is when you can offer a lower price due to unique elements of your business that result in lower costs.
Offer exceptional service
Offering exceptional customer service is an example of a sustainable competitive advantage. Not only is it hard for your competition to build exceptional customer service, but with exceptional customer service, new customers flock to your business as existing customers offer endorsements of your brand to their networks.
As with anything else in marketing, offering exceptional customer service starts with building a plan. But before you can start building a customer service plan, a customer service audit is necessary to identify where you are currently and the sources of any dissatisfaction among existing customers, so as to offer suggestions for improvement.
Here are just a few things to consider as you build your customer service plan:
- Ensure you hire the right employees who really care about other people and want to help.
- Train employees so that they can answer any questions customers might have about your products and services.
- Listen to customers and empathize with the problems they recount.
- When problems arise, handle them quickly and be transparent about your solutions. The faster and more thoroughly you solve customer problems, the less damage is caused by their complaints.
- Don’t deflect complaints by blaming someone else for customer problems. Don’t try to hide problems but use them as a tool for improving customer attitudes toward your brand by owning your mistakes and showing your market the steps you’re taking to improve performance.
Create value content you give away freely
Every customer and potential customer enjoys getting something for free. Maybe you can distribute a valuable infographic or guide that works to make a complex problem easier to manage. Or maybe you create content shared on social platforms that connections find entertaining, useful, funny, or informative.
When your goal is to help your business stand out, content is king. No one needs dull and boring content. Creating valuable content on a consistent basis is the number one factor impacting your SEO and creates engagement with your target audience. Given the value of content marketing, creating fresh content is a top priority. Yet, content marketing is incredibly time-consuming and takes valuable time away from other activities necessary to run your business. Consider enlisting the help of a digital marketing company if you want to consistently post something interactive, visually appealing, and thought-provoking. Employing content created with your customers in mind, you’ll find your audience engagement increase substantially, which not only results in amplification of your message to other audiences but increases loyalty among you’re engaged customers.
To get your customers to engage with your content, consider looking at what they find valuable and what your competition is doing to create engagement. However, don’t copy what the competition is doing. Instead, use the knowledge you glean to create unique ideas and modify them to suit your business.
Don’t take customer feedback for granted
The Internet provided users with a massive platform to spread the word about the best companies, and the chance to state their complaints. Of the two, dissatisfaction is more critical since negative word of mouth travels five times faster than positive.
Take both positive and negative feedback very seriously. Think of the things you can do differently in 2021 to make your new and existing customers feel heard, appreciated, and respected. Avoid making promises that you can never keep. Making grandiose promises may seem like a valuable marketing tool until customers find you cannot meet your promises. Then, customer dissatisfaction grows. Even if a customer would normally express satisfaction with your product or service, by overpromising you fall short, and customers feel cheated. Instead, offer realistic promises that you know you can keep.
Start from home
People started working from home in March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began and many still do so. Before the pandemic, working from home sent a negative message to customers and potential customers. That message suggested you were a new business with few resources. And no one wants to trust such a business. Now, with everybody working from home, it seems normal for your business to use a residential address. Using your home allows you to reduce operating expenses for things like rent, insurance, and furniture. Plus, if you’re one of the millions of women forced to quit their jobs because they couldn’t afford childcare for students learning from home, you can now work and supervise virtual school.
Have a highly visible online presence
As of 2018, 87% of shoppers began their product search on an online channel. That’s up from 71% the previous year. As you can see from the graphic below, there are several search strategies commonly used by searchers.
Thus, you need a highly visible online presence. That means creating an attractive website that provides a good user experience and crafting profiles on social platforms commonly used by your target audience. Once you have these assets, your job isn’t done. You need to post fresh, valuable content to all of these platforms as discussed earlier.
Give back to the community
Identify and get involved in social activities in your community, if you want to help your business stand out in 2021. By supporting local charities or an athletic team, you build rapport in your local community. By supporting other causes, you show that you are a good corporate citizen. Increasingly these social activities determine where customers choose to spend their money.
In a 2015 study by Nielsen, results show:
66% of global consumers say they are willing to pay more for sustainable brands — up 55% from 2014.” It also found that 73% of global Millennials are willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings — up from 50% in 2014.
There are many other ways to help your business stand out in 2021; you can evaluate your marketing efforts, create partnerships, or give something valuable to your customers. Adding these tactics to the tips will help your business stand out and make you a better person with improved business skills.
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Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.