The pressures on small businesses today are increasing as the same advantages that let them compete with larger firms open the field up to a lot of other players as well. If you run a small business, how can you succeed in a world where competition is coming from all sides?
As always, your small business will be successful if you can outthink, outhustle and outservice your competitors. But what does that look like in this day and age?
Tightly define a target market and then own that niche
Every single market out there has sub-segments, and almost every sub-segment can be carved into smaller sets as well. Your best path to growth is to find a set of clients that really needs your product or service, and then focus on delivering it specifically to them. Don't try to accommodate any other clients until you've completely nailed the solution and successfully delivered it to everyone in your target group.
At Office Evolution, the solo professional was our first target market. Red Bull didn't dominate the energy-drink market at its original launch – only when it focused its attention on students by giving away samples and sponsoring every event it could on campuses across the country did it establish itself as a category leader. Once you own your niche, you can extend your services to adjacent markets from a position of strength.
Don't wait for clients to find you, meet them where they are
There is a reason the movie baseball park is called “Field of Dreams” – building a business and then waiting for customers to come to you is a fantasy. People are very busy living their lives, and hardly any of them are uncomfortable enough to exert a lot of energy to find solutions to their issues. Once they find something that works, they'll generally stick with it unless another solution presents itself. You can be that solution, but take it to where they are, either physically – like at the campuses where students spend their days and nights – or mentally – like on online games or social media.
Once you engage your target market, tell a simple story
Attention spans may not have shortened from 12 to 8 seconds, but with so many options out there you don't have much time to be heard before your potential clients start moving on to something else. Boil your message down to your essential pitch: what makes your solution work for your clients. Once you have their attention and they engage with you, you can share all the features and how the combination is unique to the market, but at first you need them to say, “Wait – what?”
Keep clients by making sure they never have a reason to leave
Part of that comes from evolving your offer as their needs change, but most of it comes from listening to them and responding to questions, comments, and concerns with real answers in a timely manner. You know, good customer service. Serve every client attentively, and you'll keep them for life.
It's tempting to try to save money by doing everything yourself, but there's a downside to that approach. Solo professionals spend an average of 10 hours a week on administrative tasks that contribute nothing to business growth. Things like answering phone calls from solicitors and job seekers, managing telephone or internet service, troubleshooting office equipment, or even addressing birthday or holiday cards to clients – it has to be done, but why does it have to be done by you? How many more clients could you serve with those 10 extra hours a week?
If your billing rate is $75 an hour, you could bring in an additional $3,000 a month in revenues, which is $36,000 a year. While a full-time assistant can cost about that, there are a variety of services like virtual assistants or remote receptionists that can take all those administrative tasks off your plate for a fraction of what you can earn by repurposing that time. You will be always best served by devoting your time – your one truly irreplacable resource – to its highest-value use.
Pressures have never been greater on small businesses, but the rewards for success are still achievable if you outthink, outhustle and outservice your competitors.
Written by: Rhett Bratt
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Office Evolution has more than 70 locations open, 140 units sold in markets across the country and is poised for further growth as the demand for affordable and safe, workspace close-to-home continues to rise.