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By Larry Myler
In a world where the competition regularly claims to be #1, it’s difficult to differentiate and build your own identity. Difficult, but not impossible. Look at big brands like Pepsi, KFC and Zara. They have built their brand identities to command a large share of the market. Effective differentiation is one of the main challenges small businesses face, as they are forced to compete against big companies.
Let’s look at seven ways to help your business stand out from the crowd. Each one of the following factors has worked well in countless companies. How many of them are part of your current branding strategy?
1. Provide Legendary Customer Service.
Treat your customers like royalty, even if you are not in the service industry. The belief that customer service only matters in the service industry is a myth. All customers have an expectation of great service and will not put up with waiting in long lines or receiving poor responses from representatives. Around 75% of customers state that they consider customer service a true test of a company’s competence. Well-known companies with great customer service include Amazon and Hyundai. But even small companies seem to be doing much better in this area, as they have discovered the loyalty-generating power of remarkable customer support.
2. Admit Mistakes and Fix Problems to Build Stronger Relationships.
Customers equate experience with brands. If they have even one bad experience that remains unresolved, they will write off the brand. And negative feedback spreads like wildfire through social media and word of mouth. You need to be on top of your game to improve the customer experience, sometimes by going far out of your way. One major point is to accept your mistakes, whether they are your fault or not. Customers prefer businesses that own up to their mistakes and take steps to correct them. In fact, customer relationships can actually be stronger after a problem than before, if handled well by your people.
3. Be Honest About Your Products and Services.
Honesty is not just the best policy; it should be your main policy. Can’t deliver by a due date? Call and let your buyers know. One of your field reps messed up on a bid? Immediately have a tough conversation with your client. Lying to customers is like shooting yourself in the foot. If your customers catch you lying, they will lose faith in you and may even spread negative feedback about your business. One common form of dishonesty in business is failing to share bad news. In reality, the faster you share bad news, the more your customers will respect you. Just make sure you follow up with solutions as mentioned in #2 above.
4. Come Up With Something New.
Continue to reinvent your company by adopting emerging technologies and introducing new processes, products and solutions. For example, make use of social media and mobile apps as a growing number of buyers prefer to find and work with you through their phones. There have been many examples of people coming up with unique ideas that have made a lasting impression, such as a real Santa Claus in Birmingham. All of these attention-grabbers help businesses stand out from the crowd; however, to be effective the underlying product or service must be at least up to par.
5. Embrace Corporate Social Responsibility.
While some may argue that a company’s main responsibility is to take care of its core stakeholders such as customers, employees and owners, experts believe that businesses should give back to society as well. Look at Microsoft. It has excellent CSR programs that not only help society but also keep the corporate giant in the news. CSR programs help businesses stay in customers’ minds, improve goodwill, and often bring in more revenue.
6. Start a Blog.
Most forward thinking companies are familiar with the benefits of blogging. If you’re tired of being overlooked online; if you’re seeking a fresh way to share ideas and have your voice heard, get involved with corporate blogging. You can write the content yourself and/or involve employees to regularly contribute. Many companies hire outside writers to provide content. Sometimes it’s good to have someone else handle certain tasks. Caution: Be sure to concentrate on high quality content in your blog. Purely promotional text will drive readers away, while insightful, entertaining and educational content will attract them.
7. Offer a Guarantee.
Can you guarantee next-day delivery? Are you confident enough in your product or service to stand behind it 100%? If so, guarantee it. Adding this type of assurance to your marketing message shows customers and prospects that you truly care about their satisfaction. Here’s the only thing you need to remember: you must back up your guarantee if and when the time comes. Standing out in a crowd of competitors is no easy task, and it’s getting more difficult all the time. Choose one or more of these tactics to create an advantage for your venture.
Larry Myler: CEO By Monday, Inc., adjunct professor in the Rollins Center for Entrepreneurship & Technology at BYU, author of Indispensable By Monday.