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What sets you apart?
I’ve been lucky enough to spend half term in Portugal this week and it was whilst I was sitting on the beach watching the doughnut salesman that an idea for this week’s blog came to me.
‘Bolaberlin’ he shouts as he walks along the beach, occasionally stopping to supply eager customers with his fresh doughnuts. We’ve all tried asking for a discount when buying four or more but the answer’s always the same, ‘buy one get one same price’, he laughs.
It’s late October, he’s still trading briskly and having seen him in the summer with hoards queuing every time he returns with a full basket he clearly has a great model - and is on to a good thing at one euro for something with a low production cost. It’s simple really; old Bolaberlin has a fantastic product at an affordable price and lots of families licking their lips at the thought of his doughnuts. Crucially he has no competition, well none that I’ve seen, so he doesn’t need to differentiate or discount for volume.
If only the rest of us didn’t have competition and customers queued at our doors. It’s an increasingly competitive world and most of us have to work hard setting our business apart from our competitors.
I’m often surprised by businesses that don’t clearly identify their unique selling points or differentiators and even more surprised when some that do, don’t make enough of them. Surely any marketing literature or the home page of a website should scream out these USP’s loud and clear?
Differentiators often lack imagination and include things like ‘excellent service’. But everyone says this and it’s too easy for your competitors to create a level playing field by saying that they too provide ‘excellent service’. That is of course unless you’re smart enough to be able to demonstrate tangibly that your service really is the best through customer testimonials or even by winning an award.
There’s also a big move towards environmental differentiators and my own experience in this area is good, in that green certainly opens up some great sales opportunities. One of the things we’ve learned at STL is that savvy buyers nearly always look beyond the green sales and marketing proposition to see what the company is doing to help the environment. It was only when we got this bit right that everything else clicked into place and our green sales proposition gained real traction.
What really surprised me was that GreenMinutes®, our service that helps companies offset their carbon ‘phoneprint’, really captured the imagination of our staff. Before long we had a Green Team and they quickly established two lists, one of easy wins (recycling etc.) and one of longer term projects (replacing old lights and windows etc.). So rather than just having a sustainable sales and marketing proposition, we also became a green company.
For me a really compelling proposition might include a product or service manufactured or sourced locally - perhaps with customer support located in Oxfordshire and not India or somewhere! Pain points are always good, especially if your business removes the hassle for a customer who might otherwise be losing time and money if they did not use your service.
I would encourage any business, large or small, to spend a few hours each year brainstorming on what sets their business apart and establishing at least three compelling reasons why people should choose you. Don’t forget to shout about these and make sure they become a mantra for your staff.
In the Taxi on the way back to Faro airport we were talking about old Bolaberlin and his sales model when Carla the driver said that competition is beginning to appear in the form of some boys from Brazil who are looking to sell cheaper doughnuts! It made me think about how old Bolaberlin will look to differentiate and what his USP’s will be...or will he just become a 'me too' business?
All the best, Brendon
In this section
- Success is a by-product of good service
- What's the plan?
- Time for a reality check
- Good news sells
- Work, Life, Pubs & Tractors
- Light at the end of the tunnel
- Banks - Venture Capitalists or providers of liquidity?
- Inspiration, perspiration & desperation
- Some free advice – so what’s the catch?
- Finding & recruiting good people
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In the first of a weekly blog and occasional rant, Oxfordshire based entrepreneur Brendon Cross looks at some of the challenges faced by people starting and running their own businesses.