8 Ways to Differentiate Your Small Business in Today’s Economy

by Edgar R. Olivo

Standing out in a noisy market can be a daunting task for new and seasoned entrepreneurs. Luckily, there are many proven strategies that will never go out of style with consumers and help you differentiate your business in the market.

To put your small business on the right track, you can start by asking yourself a few questions. When a customer asks you what makes you different, do you answer the question confidently, telling them why you are the best at solving their key challenge? Does your answer help your audience feel like you understand their needs? Do you clearly describe why buying from you makes you their ideal choice?

When you differentiate your business, you make it memorable and credible. It helps your customers quickly understand what you do and what sets you apart from your competitors.

In addition to these questions, capturing feedback from your customers can lead you closer to unleashing the potential gold mine in your small business. Ask yourself, what do your clients really appreciate about your service? Why are long-term clients still with you? What was one of the nicest things a client ever said about how you conduct business? Here are eight strategies to help you develop a solid approach to differentiate your small business in today’s economy.

  1. Narrow your target market. The more focused your target market, the better. Imaging trying to catch a fish by shooting a bullet into the ocean. You will not be as effective as studying the ocean waters, finding where the fish collect, and using a net to catch the fish you want. When you are focused on a specific target market, your marketing becomes much easier for customers to connect with.
  2. Focus on superior customer service. Customer service does not start the moment a customer walks in your door. It starts the moment a customer searches for the solution to their need. Think about the entire customer journey and how customers feel when they buy from your business. Use the questions above to help you design a simple and positive customer experience. Nowadays, great customer service is more valued by small businesses to grow their customer base.
  3. Solve a problem. Understanding the needs of your customer is crucial to effective sales. Listen to your customers and reflect on how they talk online and offline about the problem you solved for them. Use that feedback to build your brand, a marketing strategy, and a great product or service around that feedback. Challenge your assumptions and go directly to the source to grow your business: your customer.
  4. Be innovative. Innovating does not always mean creating a new product or service. Sometimes, small businesses get stuck doing the same thing the same way and customers can get bored. Innovating can be as simple as updating the way a customer buys from you, or how your product or service is delivered. Find ways to improve how you solve your customers problems and they will be glad you did.
  5. Create offers that are too hard to ignore. Your loyal customers deserve a gesture of appreciation by you offering them a special discount every now and then. Make sure your discounts are offered during special times to make them special. If a discount is offered all the time, then it stops being special.
  6. Be known as the expert in your field. Every entrepreneur starts out with their passion on one hand and skillset in the other. Make sure to continuously sharpen your skills and grow within your field. Earning the trust of your customers will be much easier when you are perceived as a leader in your field.
  7. Make it easy to do business with you. When a customer must jump through too many hoops to get what they need, it will lead them out the door. Make sure you understand the process a customer must go through to buy from you and find ways to simplify it. Commit to this simpler process to develop a consistent sales funnel.
  8. Create a unique business model based on your values. Make sure to have your values clear as a small business owner. If you care about the environment, make sure your service or product reflects that. If you care about your community, make sure your actions reflect that. Customers enjoy buying from small businesses that walk the talk.

These eight strategies work for any type of small business. If you are a new business owner, draft your business plan first and do your market research before you invest money to start. Write out your goals and ask yourself, how do you want to be treated if you were to buy from your own small business? If you are an experienced business owner, measure what is working well and find ways to improve. Train your staff on your company standards by sharing your mission statement and brand promise with them.

EDGAR RAFAEL OLIVO is a bilingual business educator, economic advisor, and contributor for several media outlets. He’s a nonprofit executive who is passionate about education. He is certified in finance and data analytics and holds a business degree from Arizona State University.

Para la versión en español de este artículo, haga clic aquí.

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