Position Yourself For Success (written September, 2001)

Competition is healthy. Competition is what motivates the successful people to achieve success. Let’s face it – Somebody else is getting some of the revenues that could be coming your way if you are not on the ball. If you’re competing against a much larger company with more resources, you have your work cut out for you. Don’t bury your head in the sand.

The fact remains that small can be better. Small isn’t always beautiful, but being small has its advantages, even in business. Small businesses can be more flexible. You can consider going in new directions or taking advantage of new developments and new technology. If you have only ten customers to please, you can move in a new direction easier than if you have to keep up orders from thousands. If you only have a few dollars invested in equipment and full time employees, you can change your way of doing business almost overnight. That’s flexibility! No matter what you think, the companies that succeed these days are ones that can experiment, innovate and get ahead of the others. Being small puts you in much better position to do these things than your larger competitors. Being small is better!

To be better, try and figure out what makes your business unique. Stop and think about it. Why should people come to you? Do you offer convenience to customers? Extra service? Is your product faster or nicer looking or easier to use? List one or more things that sets your business apart from the others. Now consider which of these you want to emphasize. As your business grows larger, you won’t be able to do all the little things that were easy in the beginning. For example, if you’ve been delivering orders to your customers but realize that this takes too much time, then you won’t want to emphasize this as your business grows. However, if you can offer gift wrapping at a nominal cost and want to go on doing it, make it one of your selling points. You need a number of unique factors or selling points, but as you list them, think ahead to when your business will be larger than it is today.

Another cool way to set your business apart is to write a great slogan. You may remember the “number two” car rental company that advertised, “we try harder.” You probably know which credit card company talks about the privileges its members have. You can probably think of a few other ad slogans used in commercials, bill-boards or magazines. Large companies spend many thousands on such slogans, but people who spend time thinking about their small businesses can come up with some great ones too. Just start by thinking about what’s special about your business – go back to your selling points. Note: one of the well-known slogans you’ve been hearing might fit your business, but don’t be tempted to use it. Companies own their slogans and protect them fiercely. Duplicate the concept – not the slogan!

Then test your slogan. Once you have a slogan, ask other people what they think of it. Start with your family and friends. You can ask some of your best customers and suppliers, too. If most people like it, don’t look any further. But if they don’t understand it, you need to go back to the drawing board and come with something else. A good slogan can make people stop and think, but if it leaves prospects puzzled, you won’t get any sales. Developing sales is what your slogan is about!

Once you choose a slogan, then get the word out. Use your slogan everywhere you can. Post it over your door or in your shop.  Print it on your stationary and in any advertising that has room for it. When it’s time to place your ads, that’s when you’ll redesign them. You can even print short, snappy slogans on baseball hats and tee-shirts. This doesn’t mean you should spend a lot of money all at once. If you have your logo in your computer, it shouldn’t be hard to add a line of type underneath it. Also, add your slogan to the signature you use in your e-mail messages.

Another cool way to compete with the large competitors is to think benefits. Make a list. Tell them what they’re going to get by choosing your business or your product or service, and tell them how. If you’ll save them money by letting them make small monthly payments at no interest whatsoever, say so. Tell them if leading doctors have endorsed your nutritional product, or let the users speak for themselves. Never lose sight of what’s in it for the customer. They don’t care if your company is terrific or if you’re a great person. What will they get out of what you have to offer? Will your product make them sexier, richer, or healthier? Will they look better? Live longer? Save money?

Lastly, give good value. People who are new in business are sometimes afraid to ask for sufficient compensation. By asking too little, they give customers and prospects the impression that they aren’t offering value. Most people believe that “cheap is cheap” & “you get what you pay for.” If you make your business worthwhile to your customers, they won’t mind paying a fair price.

The author of this article is Larry Costello, President of All-American Print & Mail, 2200 Wilson Blvd #102-57, Arlington, VA 22201.