Telling the truth about SME life today

How to become the only obvious choice for your target customer

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The biggest problem in getting to the top… is getting through the crowd at the bottom . Thats one of serial entrepreneur Nigel Botterills essential business rules and, having built eight 1m businesses from scratch in the last eight years, he knows a thing or two about standing out from the crowd.

But standing out from your competitors is about much more than coming up with a catchy slogan though that can certainly help. Do your customers see you as a commodity If so, you’re not “The Special One”, you’re like any other business and youll be forced to compete on price.

Most businesses say, Our people are the difference or Free Quotations (does anyone actually charge for quotations these days ). You might as well say, Do business with us because were pretty much the same as our competition but were really good at it .

Only when you differentiate yourself in a clear and powerful way can you become a Category of One company.

But before you come up with how you’re going to stand out from the crowd you need to know who you want the crowd to be. Remember the three Ms:

(1) Market who your who is;
(2) Message what you’re going to tell them; and
(3) Media how you’re going to tell them.

The most important thing is that your market needs to be specific, identifiable and contactable.

To become a true Category One company you need to follow three rules:

(1) Know more about the customer than anyone else not just who your customer is, but what makes them tick and what theyre thinking. If you’re not sure, survey your best companies.

(2) Get closer to the customer than anyone else what else could you know about your customer to get even closer Whether it’s knowing the names and ages of their children or, like Amazon and Netflix, simply knowing what theyve bought before and are likely to want to buy again, make it your business to know.

(3) Emotionally connect with customers better than anyone else it doesnt always take much, but the smallest gestures can mean a lot, whether it’s a local bookseller popping round to deliver an order to a house-bound customer and bringing a box of chocolates as well, or a behemoth like Disney making every visitor to their parks feel like theyre a friend.

When I teach this course to business owners at the Entrepreneurs Circle Training Academy I find the question that most companies find toughest to answer is: Whats your story The answer is not, I make widgets or I sell software . Think about whats important to you and why you go to work every day. If you dont have a sense of purpose whats really important to you and what the point of it is you’re going to find it hard to beat a competitor who has figured out these things.

Youll then find it easier to come up with a strapline for your Category of One business. It needs to be something that makes you stand out, or something your competitors cannot say.

Here are a few possible angles:

  • The result or outcome your customer gets;
  • Your track record of proven results;
  • Your bundle price or payment plan;
  • Your guarantee; or
  • Your awards.

There are four other angles you can use for straplines:

(1) Try the negative: This isnt for you if
(2) Add a time frame: This positive outcome will happen before
(3) Or else: Well refund your
(4) Powerful words: The only , the UKs fastest , the first .

Think about what you offer or do for your customers that your customers dont. Think of some-well known examples. Premier Inns A good nights sleep guaranteed or you get a full refund ; Kias seven-year warranty on all new cars; or Netflixs boast that they provide the largest selection of independent films of any movie rental service.

A Category of One is a clever truth. It is self-appointment, self-promotion and self-aggrandisement. You dont need anyone elses permission to be successful.

Andy Willcox is chief marketing officer at Entrepreneurs Circle.

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