When I owned a machine shop, it was a challenge to market the company. There were thousands of small job shops just like mine in Minnesota; to “differentiate” the company was difficult.
Buyers knew shops had different capabilities. They machined round parts or square; aluminum or steel; big parts or small. Some shops specialized in government contracts, while others preferred OEM (original equipment manufacturers).
The shops that stood out were the ones that took differentiation seriously: they created a unique selling proposition (USP). They researched what their ideal customer needed and delivered it in spades. Creating a USP isn’t easy, it takes a lot of thought, brainstorming and trial and error. Most business owners are too close to what they do to see the specialization that makes them stand out.
Make the effort to differentiate your business.
- Come up with a list of processes you do really well. Don’t discount anything because a skill or technique you think is simple, might be just the key to standing out above your competition.
- What do your clients appreciate about your service?
- Why are your long-term clients still with you?
- What was the most memorable thing a client said about how you conduct business?
Narrow your target market – by specializing in a specific niche you can focus on the skills or services that uniquely benefit those customers, resulting in stronger relationships.
Focus on superior customer service – create the best experience for your customers. From the initial proposal to the final delivery and beyond to your follow-up contacts. Make sure each customer is treated as if they are your only customer.
Create a unique business model based on your values – be transparent with your customers about what you do and why. Do you markup other vendors’ products or services? If not, let the customer know. What do you do in your business that is value driven? (Think honesty, patriotism, specific charities, etc.)
Make it easy to do business with you – provide access to you via phone, text, email or carrier pigeon 24/7. Make a pledge to answer every contact from a customer in 30 minutes. Simplify your contract. Do whatever it takes to make working with you easy and convenient.
Notice that I didn’t mention price as a way to differentiate your business. Sometimes price is the deciding factor, but it isn’t a good differentiator. Who really wants to be the cheapest? It suggests low quality, less breadth of knowledge and perhaps even an unstable business.
Discover what your customers value, what you do better than anyone else and do more of it.
The road is easier together, Linda