Using Your Small Business Marketing Tools to Differentiate Your Business

Perhaps the most important quality for your small business marketing materials is that they are different. If you do nothing else right in your small business marketing, at least be different.

Why is differentiation so important? Because, in most industries, there are hundreds – if not thousands or millions – of other businesses that claim to provide the same service or sell the same product as you do. If you don’t differentiate your business from all those others, the chances that you’ll get many customers are pretty slim.

Some common ways to differentiate your business are:

Superior service

Greater product availability

Higher quality

Better performance

Greater durability

Prestige

Technology leadership

Satisfaction guarantee

Lower cost

Faster delivery

More customer support

But even if you are very different than your competitors – you offer superior service, greater durability, or a satisfaction guarantee that beats all others – it won’t matter unless your prospective customers know about it.

That’s where your small business marketing strategy comes in. Businesses have been using their small business marketing strategies to announce how they’re different from their competitors as long as they have been using small business marketing strategies. Think Maxwell House’s “Good to the last drop,” Campbell’s Soup’s “Mmm, mmm good,” or WalMart’s “Always low prices.” Those highly successful taglines not only get prospective customers to remember the company name, but also convey a message about the difference between that company and others.

To make differentiation a part of your small business marketing strategy, you first need to understand your competitors – you can only explain how you’re different from them once you know what they’re like. Learn what your competitors offer, how they differentiate themselves, and – most importantly – what your prospective customers think about them (if you know what qualities your prospective customers see as shortcomings in the other companies in the market, you’ll have a good idea of the market gap you can fill).

Once you’ve decided how you are different from your competitors, you need to tell your prospective customers about it. Building that differentiation into your tagline can be a very effective start. Then include that tagline, along with your logo, on every piece of small business marketing collateral you have. Another small business marketing way to publicize your differences is to write a press release. Explain how you’re filling a need in the market that no other company has filled.

Once you’ve differentiated your company and used your small business marketing tools to publicize your differences, you have to follow through on your promises. If you say that you’re the cheapest – or the highest quality, or the friendliest, or whatever – then you better be just that (nothing turns away a customer like a failed promise).

Top Five Tips Small Business Owners Can Learn From JK Rowling

J. K. Rowling is the English writer who has authored all seven beloved and widely read Harry Potter novels. At age 41, her rise to fame and fortune is inspiring. She has sold over 325 million books. The final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, was the fastest-selling book of all time.

Her fortune is estimated at $1 billion. She is ranked as the 136th richest person in the world. In 2006, Forbes named Rowling the second richest female entertainer in the world and ranked her as 48th on the 100 most powerful celebrities list of 2007.

When this all began in 1990, however, things were very different for J. K. Rowling. She was not a published author. She did not have a lot of money. She was living in London, working as a researcher and bi-lingual secretary for Amnesty International, and her mother had just died. How she got from there to where she is today is a story filled with invaluable tips for small business owners.

Tip # 1: Don’t Rush to Roll Out Your Product.

Destiny is a name often given in retrospect to choices that had dramatic consequences. – Rowling

Although J. K. Rowling had been a writer all her life, she was slow to publish. “I had written two novels before I had the idea for Harry, though I’d never tried to get them published (and a good job too, I don’t think they were very good).”

All too often, as small business owners, we rush to get a product out before its time, before it’s been fully considered or tested. Rowling sets a great example of getting a product just right before presenting it to the world.

Tip # 2: When a Great Idea Grabs You — Grab Back.

You sort of start thinking anythings possible if you’ve got enough nerve. – Rowling

Great ideas are unmistakably powerful in their announcement and come when least expected. Rowling says:

Where the idea for Harry Potter actually came from, I really couldn’t tell you. I was traveling on a train between Manchester and London and it just popped into my head. I spent four hours thinking about what Hogwarts would be like. By the time I got off at King’s Cross, many of the characters in the books had already been invented.

As small business owners, we know when a great idea is upon us. The problem is, we often question it, second-guess it, and rationalize it away. Not Rowling. She recognized the mark of a powerful idea, seized upon it and went with it.

Tip # 3: Persevere, Persevere, and Persevere.

It is our choices . . . that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities. – Rowling

Rowling moved to Portugal to teach English as a Second Language in 1991 and married her first husband in 1992. They divorced in 1993. The next year, she moved to Scotland. At this point, she was an unemployed single mother living on welfare. In 1995, she completed her manuscript for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, typing it out on an old manual typewriter. She handed in the book to twelve publishing houses. They all rejected it.

Rowling never gave up. She did not stop just because life was hard. Despite all the changes and setbacks she was experiencing, she carried on. She persevered. As small business owners, we would do well to keep her example in mind.

Tip # 4: Don’t Let Anyone, Including Yourself, Sidetrack You from Your Goal.

If you’re holding out for universal popularity, I’m afraid you will be in this cabin for a very long time. – Rowling

Finally, Bloomsbury, a small publisher, agreed to publish the first book. Her editor, though, says that he “advised Rowling to get a day job, since she had little chance of making money in children’s books.”

It’s a good thing she didn’t listen. All seven volumes of the Harry Potter series have broken sales records and have been translated into 65 languages. What a shining role model Rowling is for small business owners. She didn’t let anyone stand in the way of her goal-not even herself.

Tip # 5: Each of Us Has a Unique Contribution to Make to the World.

I just write what I wanted to write. I write what amuses me. It’s totally for myself. – Rowling

J. K. Rowling never went searching for the kind of success she’s received. “I just wrote the sort of thing I liked reading when I was younger (and still enjoy now!). I didn’t expect lots of people to like them, in fact, I never really thought much past getting them published.”

It wasn’t fame or wealth that J. K. Rowling sought. No. She simply wanted to contribute to the world in general, and to children specifically. As small business owners, this is so important to learn. Focus on the unique something we have to offer to the world. The rest will surely come, in ways we may not even be able to imagine.

Small Business Banking

As a small business owner, you will want to focus on banking features that are available, useful and help you realize success with your company. Each financial institution offers unique small business banking programs and packages. There are free business checking accounts, business savings accounts, loans and credit card services as well as online features from credit unions and banks to consider while conducting business. You will want to become familiar with their products so you can choose which will work for you and your business.

When looking at the selection of credit unions and banks, you will see many types of small business banking services that can meet your needs. Some credit unions and banks offer free business checking accounts, while others require a minimum balance. You may need after hour depositing and many small business banking programs include this. Most banks and credit unions offer a debit card or check card with the opening of a free business checking account. This can prove to be a convenient and efficient way to make purchases for your business. You may have an option of an unlimited amount of transactions when you start a free business checking account with your credit union or bank. Check with your financial institution, as there may be limits on usage and account balances.

You will have plenty of options when you open a business savings account. Overdraft protection can certainly be useful when you use your business savings account to cover any overages by your business checking account. Your business funds can earn money with an interest bearing savings account. Each financial institution will set their terms for the amount and the length of the deposit for this type of business savings account. CD’s and money market savings accounts are offered as another source of generating money with your business savings account.

Most small businesses need capital for start up, growth and expansion, and even help through lean times. Credit Unions and banks offer loans and even business credit cards to cover these needs. Many small companies take advantage of business credit cards for convenience and flexibility with their working capital. An example of this would be when using your card to cover the gap in payment for goods and services that your business has invoiced. Small business loans can be an essential element for expansion in the event that you do not have the capital to cover the cost of growing your company. While you can’t predict the future, knowing that your business can take on a loan to assist you through difficult times can put your mind at ease.

Small business banking has grown with the digital age and most banks and credit unions now extend online services to their business customers in addition to free checking and savings accounts. Such services can include taking of care of your accounts payable online, monitoring free business checking and business savings account activity, receiving account alerts at your email or mobile device, bill payment and transferring funds between accounts with the push of a button. Statements through the mail can literally be a thing of the past with online banking. Online small business banking services even allow for the use of accounting software such as Quicken® or Microsoft Money® so that your financial picture can be managed with great ease.

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