This is the fourth of a new series of articles – positive mindsets for a positive future. Over the next few weeks I will explore some of the most frequent questions I get asked as a business coach and focus on both the challenges and opportunities each one presents.
No-one starts their own business thinking it will be easy. There will be many challenges along the way. Very often the difference between business success and failure will depend entirely on how you approach those challenges and reframe them into opportunities.
Today my focus is another topic that leads to lots of questions and comments - marketing and competition.
One major challenge for businesses, especially smaller ones, is not to be a well-kept secret! It is easy to put all your effort into creating the business and forget about the need to sell what you are doing to others.
Marketing presents a number of challenges to SMEs – to do it effectively you need confidence, time and persistence. You do not necessarily need to spend lots of money or to create expensive marketing materials.
You need to be clear who we are selling to and have simple strategies to reach them – no SME is marketing to the whole world! Target your marketing efforts! If you are selling a product or service to school children then work out how you are going to get your message to them. To do that effectively you must really know and understand your market – who are they, how do they think, what needs do they have that my business can satisfy? That means you must invest time – time that is used to effectively market your business needs to be seen as an investment in the future.
Some business owners feel unsure about marketing so they might do nothing or ask someone to do it for them. If you do use a third party, maybe to write brochures or create a website or some other social media, make sure they really understand you and your business and work alongside them.
When marketing your business ask yourself, ‘how do we stand out in the crowd’? You need to find your USP – your unique selling proposition – something that you have or do that no-one else has or does. It is hard to market if you are the same as all the businesses around you. It might be something quite small or the difference might be you and your people.
When planning your own marketing strategy, start by looking at what your competitors are doing. Competition is good in that it keeps you focused and alert, but you do need to understand it and you need to know how your competitors might be better than you. That can’t be done by ignoring them!
The more successful you are in running your business the more competitors you are likely to have – success breeds success. Others will want what you have! Don’t let competition frighten you. Use it to help you improve to be the best you can be. Sometimes you might turn a competitor into a collaborator and join forces on specific issues or activities.
If a customer approaches you with a query that you can’t satisfy then be prepared to tell them where to go to get what they want, even if it is to a competitor. The chances are that the customer will remember that act of kindness and come back to you in the future.
SMEs need each other – you are not big enough or have enough resources to do everything on your own. Work with others to create joint marketing plans – two heads are always better than one!
Finally, you need to overcome the challenge of having the confidence to promote yourselves. In the Pacific many small businesses tend towards being quiet and unassuming but if you have a good product or service then you must tell others. If you tell others and they like it then they will tell others and do your marketing for you!
If you need help with marketing or understanding your competition or you want some feedback on your own practices, then please get in touch.
I hope you have enjoyed this article. As always, please contact me if you have an interesting story to tell and are happy for it to be told. More challenges and opportunities next week.
Breadfruit Consulting (www.breadfruitconsulting.com) is a Vanuatu-based business providing advice, training, coaching, and mentoring to businesses throughout the Pacific islands. Breadfruit specialises in a range of business development activities including ‘business continuity planning and action’, helping businesses to survive in a crisis, designing and starting new, sustainable businesses. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Founding partner at Breadfruit Consulting.