The New Year is almost here, so while you shuttle out the last of your inventory, plan your sales forecasts and organize new vendor agreements, don’t forget to ask yourself one question: How are you going to stand head-and-shoulders above your competition in 2013?
Here are a few ideas to get you started.
John Dumas creates podcasts every day of entrepreneurs talking about their rise to the top. He posts them on the iTunes store as part of his business consulting company Entrepreneur On Fire, and has scored several clients thanks to his broadcasts.
“It has helped me build an audience quickly—I only started in September,” he says. “The value of the content I provide has landed me sponsorships and coaching clients.”
Consider creating a podcast relating to your area of expertise. If you own a coffee shop, for example, Dumas recommends recording a podcast on business strategies you find most successful. Chances are, other coffee shop owners will find your podcast and begin to look to you as an expert. Your name will become more recognized, which may help you land clients.
“From there, you could transform your podcast into a service, like coaching for other coffee shop owners,” he says. “Who knows; it could even lead to writing an e-book or speaking on business success at a conference.”
How do you create a podcast?
Podcasts are the “audio version of a blog,” says Dumas, so start by recording your offering on your phone or computer. From there, he recommends uploading your MP3 file to a media host such as Amazon S3 or Libsyn. Those sites will help you submit your podcast to the iTunes store and syndicate to various channels—and voilà! you'll have followers (read: more potential customers) in no time.
Share Your Personality
Endear yourself to your customers by sharing stories on your website and social media channels of how you got into business and why you are committed to helping your community, recommends says John Heaney, principal at Orange Envelopes, a marketing and branding firm in Cleveland.
“People like to do business with people they like,” he says.
Secure Repeat Customers
It is easier to keep an existing customer than attract a new one, as the saying goes. Inspire customers to stay with you by creating loyalty and referral programs, recommends Susan Baroncini-Moe, founder of Business in Blue Jeans, a business and marketing consultancy in Indianapolis.
Another idea: circulate a catchy email newsletter (include news and useful tips for subscribers).
“Every time someone signs up to get your newsletter, give them something in exchange—a coupon or a video exclusive to subscribers,” Baroncini-Moe suggests. “Stay engaged with your customers on a regular basis by sending out a letter every week and giving them perks for membership such as exclusive in-store events.”
Customers often choose to do business with memorable and fun companies (even if prices aren’t rock bottom) over mass-market corporations. Spice things up in your office by getting creative in your daily tasks.
Heaney recommends sending mail in multicolored envelopes to reflect your company’s logo, changing your website text from corporate verbiage to everyday language and offering discounts to customers who can beat you in random games such as rock-paper-scissors.
“Once you get in the habit of out-imagining your competitors, they may try to copy some of your ideas," he says, "but you can keep extending your lead with just a single new idea each month.”
How is your business poised to beat the competition next year?