Your small business probably started on your grand idea. You’d sell lemonade in the cul-de-sac of your neighborhood, but it’d be your mom’s special recipe (lemons, water, & sugar). You’d start a community yoga class, but there would be goats there. You’d sell pets, but they would actually just be rocks. Your uniqueness is your selling point after all, right? If you find yourself asking how to make your small business stand out, you’re not alone.
The world’s greatest idea—your niche mission, rare approach to a problem, or never-before product—is the spark that started it all. Without it, you’d fade into oblivion like the 595,000 small businesses that fail every year in the US. But alone, whatever it is that makes you special isn’t enough to carry your business in the long run.
Deep down inside, we often want to believe our ideas, businesses, and—by extension—ourselves are not like the rest. Whether we enjoy the freedom that comes with making our own rules or haven’t fully wrestled with our own sense of exceptionalism, at some point, we have to come face-to-face with the reality that we might not be as special as we think.
While you’re probably wondering how to make your small business stand out, as a writer, I also grapple with the same concept every day. I’m faced with a topic to write about. In this case, it’s small business marketing. A quick scroll on Google shows me the work of countless others who’ve gone before. I’m constantly asking myself the question, “How do I write things that cut through the noise—that people want to read?”
And while writing this blog post and running a business aren’t entirely the same, they both come back to one thing—the right people.
You don’t need a groundbreaking idea. You need a good one, custom fit for the right people.
The truth is, (almost) anything is replaceable—your idea, your job, and yes, even your small business.
In the words of pop icon, Beyonce,
“So don’t you ever for a second get to thinking
Let’s talk about grocery stores.
I’ll set the scene. You’re nearing the end of an eternal roadtrip to the beach. The air is getting saltier and your tummy is getting rumblier by the minute. You’ll need to be stocked up on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for your beach day, so you start looking for a grocery store. How do you find the right one?
Most people would probably look for the closest grocery on their route. Some might go out of the way for a cheaper option. For others, access to organic foods or a local experience might be what seals the deal for them.
At the most essential level, all grocery stores do the same thing—fill empty stomachs for (a little bit) cheaper than a restaurant. The differences between H-E-B, Kroger, Food Lion, Trader Joe’s, and ALDI aren’t really found in the products. Sure, there’s some variety when it comes to inventory, but even businesses selling “products” are selling the experiences their products and services allow.
Giant Eagle used to offer in-store childcare for shopping moms. Costco allows bigger families to shop less frequently and less expensively because of the premium pricing on bulk items—not to mention the free samples around every corner. My local Harris Teeter offers live music and you’ll often find middle-aged women browsing the aisles with a glass of wine from the cafe. Each of these differences are shaped not by each store’s actual products, but by the way they’ve crafted a shopping experience for a particular person’s needs.
You can do the same exact thing for your small business.
A few weeks ago, Joe wrote about the difference between being unique and being different. Your small business probably isn’t actually one-of-a-kind. And, even if it is right now, your competition is just around the corner. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t offer very real differences from others in your industry.
Instead of worrying about the one-of-a-kind splendor of your groundbreaking idea, you can focus your efforts on crafting everything—both your brand’s experience itself and the way you communicate about that experience—around the right people.
If you’re interested in exploring the process of re-aligning your brand experience to the right people, our team at Amenable has worked with a number of small businesses to do just that. Feel free to check out our work or reach out to talk through what that could look like.
More of a DIY small business owner? Here are a few of the questions I like to start with to get started thinking through a brand experience:
During the holiday season, many small businesses can find themselves caught up in the holiday hustle, just trying to keep up with the sales, consumerism, and added communications around Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, Small Business Saturday—and everything in between. Trying to figure out how to make your small business stand out can feel like a lost cause at times.
Brice recently wrote a free downloadable resource for small businesses about navigating the grotesque consumerism of the holiday season in fresh and meaningful ways. Oftentimes, small businesses can cut through the noise and meet customer needs through their presence and practice in ways that just aren’t possible for large corporations. Check it out here!
One specific pressure that many organizations face around the holidays is creating content—an email for this, a post for that. With the heightened competition for attention this time of year, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that communicating with your clients or customers need to be so one-of-a-kind that it can be tricky to even know where to start.
However, in a recent LinkedIn post, creator Joe Gannon breaks the news—nobody cares about your content. He goes on to talk about why this is actually good news. It gives you freedom to experiment, takes the pressure off, allows you to build a loyal audience, and gives you the space to take a break—often when you need it most.
So, when you’re crafting your communications this holiday season, take the pressure off yourself. Whether it’s a business, idea, blog, or social media post, it’s probably not going to be one-of-a-kind—and that’s okay. Remember, you don’t need the world’s best idea. You need a good one, crafted for the right people.
Your small business might not be special—and that might be good news.