Let’s face it, there is a heck of a lot of competition out there, and it descends upon us from all sides: Down the road, across the country, globally, and online.
So if you want to get ahead, one vital thing you must do is STAND OUT from the crowd. For years I have been advising small business people that they not only do they need to be unique, different, and special if they really want to succeed, they must also let people know that they are unique, different, and special, for several reasons:
- It gives people a hook to hang on so that they remember you
- It allows you to compete on something other than price
- It creates perceived added value
Having a unique, identifiable brand is great because you set yourself apart from the sea of competition. You are perceived of as better. Think about the world of computers. There are tons of computer makers out there, right? Toshiba, Acer, HP, Dell.
But there is only one Apple.
So the question is, how do you get recognized as being the expert in your field, the difference maker, the Apple Computer of your field? Here’s how:
Be great at something: Apple’s brand begins with its unique products. That is the foundation. Now, for the rest of us, creating as something as cool as the iPhone is out of the question, but what is not out of the question is offering quality, and even then, quality alone is not enough.
You have to be great, exceptional even.
Whether it is your cool store or amazing customer service or vast selection, your business has to exude unique specialness if you are going to stand out as the expert.
Get recognized: To be recognized as exceptional requires two things: Being exceptional (see above) and being recognized. It does you no good to be a great chiropractor (for our purposes) if the only your customers know how great your business is.
That is where PR comes in. Write some articles and get published. Get a newspaper or TV station to do a story on you. Get a trade magazine to do a feature on you. Get recognized as being better than the rest.
Be hip: One of Apple’s greatest strengths is that it is perceived as a hip brand, and that in turn allows it to sell for more at higher margins. For us, having the edge means:
- Tapping into the power of social media: The fact that we all can self-publish as often as we like is an amazing opportunity, one that is almost an afterthought these days. But don’t let it be. Today, you build your hip brand by having a robust, consistent, social media presence. Tweet, update, link, post.
- Using all other online tools: Blog, make video, post video, create content for your site. Being an online dynamo is what is required.
Build buzz: The anticipation that occurs before Apple rolls out a new product is remarkable. Apple has created that sense of expectation by consistently creating great products that break the mold and then announcing that the Next Big Thing is again just around the corner.
It is a great lesson for the rest of us. Break your mold. Do something different.
You can build buzz in your own micro-community by launching something unique – whether it be a great product or new service. The best way to do this is to use viral marketing. Essentially, viral marketing is what Apple uses when it gets its customers to rave about their products and in the process becoming an unpaid Apple sales force.
For the rest of us, a simple viral marketing campaign can be as easy as this:
1. Decide on what you are going to sell, and again, even if it is ‘old’, give it a new spin. People like new.
2. Set a launch date
3. Build anticipation by advertising it, tweeting it, etc. (“Next week, Conejo Ice Cream will change the face of banana splits . . . forever!”)
4. Offer a freebie: “Free” is the marketer’s best friend. By offering a free sample, you set people to become your viral workforce since they will want to let their friends in on the great deal. (“Next Friday, we will be giving away free scoops of our incredible new “banana fudge royale” ice cream, and if you re-tweet this, you get two!”)
5. Keep building anticipation, keep tweeting, keep the message going.
6. Launch, and back it up: This only works if you have a great product that people like.
The upshot of all of this is that by building your fan base and creating buzz around your brand, you set yourself apart from the crowd. You will be able to charge more and work less.