One of the greatest obstacles for small businesses is dealing with direct competition and the ever-increasing low-priced options offered by large companies. Whether you’re in the business of preparing taxes, taking photographs or walking dogs, someone else is out there selling the same goods or services — often for less.
How can you separate yourself and your business from the pack and make your services appealing to consumers? One strategy — which is easier said than done — is to become an expert in your field of specialization.
What does this entail?
First, investigate the history of your area of business, read the current publications in your field and analyze consumer research and projected trends. Read, read, read. Become knowledgeable about your specialization and comfortable discussing the market. Staying informed will give you insight and confidence.
Second, promote yourself as a business entrepreneur with special expertise. Write articles for trade magazines and start a blog on your business website. Offer to speak at trade conferences, seminars and local business associations. Being viewed as an authority in your industry and being able to educate customers will build their trust in you and your product or service.
Scott Halford says it best in his Entrepreneur article, “Charting Your Path to Market Mastery“:
“Delve deep into what you love to do. Learn more, think more, discuss more and teach more. Become the go-to person in your arena and you’ll be well on your way to mastery.”
To further illustrate, let’s use the example of a small local bakery. As the owner of that bakery, we’ll assume that you are highly skilled and passionate about what you do. You’d have to be to wake up at 4 a.m. every day to bake scones! You clearly know more about baking and baked goods than the average person, so how can you share this expertise?
Write a blog with tips of the trade or decorating ideas. Share what you learned at recent baking seminars and institutes you attended. Connect with a local newspaper or radio station to share a great seasonal recipe. Write and self-publish a cookbook. Host tasting events at your shop to share recipes and promote your book.
Find ways to be the local expert on all things baking and you’ll become a valuable resource to the media and to consumers.
Being an expert in your field means establishing yourself as a respected, trustworthy authority in a particular niche of business and thereby differentiating yourself from your competitors. By being active learner and educator, you’re constantly putting your name and business out there for the public, driving traffic to your website or store and increasing sales.
Jeremy Striffler is a consultant for Compendium Inc., which provides marketing and management services for small businesses and individuals in the Twin Cities. Jeremy specializes in commercial real estate and retail and writes the blog, Simply Ask Compendium, which offers advice for small business owners and entrepreneurs. He is an active member of the International Council of Shopping Centers and Young Professionals of Twin Cities.