Yes, you want to stand out in what is becoming an ever-crowded marketplace, but no, you certainly do not want to shout and be obnoxious to get attention. Given that, is it actually possible to stand out, and if so, how?
The answer is yes, you can, and even better, doing so does not include yelling. I’ll tell you the secret in a moment, but first, a story:
Not long ago I went with my wife to an idyllic, small little fishing village on the Pacific coast of Mexico where the locals were kind, the beach perfect and the vibe just right (sorry, its name will remain a secret, amigos!) Many mornings we found ourselves at the same great little restaurant for breakfast.
Did we keep coming back there for the delicious huevos rancheros? That was part of it. Was it because of our wonderful waitresses? Yes, but that was not the main reason. Even though there were tons of restaurants and bars in this town, we – and plenty more people – crowded this place every day. Why?
In a town where getting online was a challenge, free WiFi kept us coming back. Throughout the town there were little posters that said nothing more than “Free WiFi!” and the name of the restaurant. That was their X Factor to stand out in a crowded market.
Isn’t that true of your favorite businesses, the ones you frequent time and again? Don’t they offer something unique and out of the ordinary?
- There is a bookstore in the Pacific Northwest called Powell’s World of Books. World of Books indeed. The store engulfs one full city block and is four stories high.
- In Los Angeles, there is a fun sushi bar on the Westside. I don’t recall its real name because all anyone ever calls it is “Reggae Sushi.” Yep, reggae music all the time, mon.
These are X factors. These businesses have figured out something special to hang their hat on to distinguish themselves from the competition. So, the question you should ask yourself is – what is yours? What is it you do that is unique, different and special that you can tout that will make your business more memorable?
Here’s another example: Not long ago I was in Erie, Pennsylvania, giving a speech for the local Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Every year, the SBDC honors local businesses with a banquet, the culmination of which is the presentation of “Business of the Year” awards in various categories. I was fortunate enough to get to give the keynote at the banquet and meet these exceptional entrepreneurs. As I think back upon the award winners, each one had their own unique, memorable characteristic.
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But my favorite was a company called Frontier Pharmacy. At a time when large drug store chains are putting local pharmacies out of business, Frontier Pharmacy is easily the busiest pharmacy in the area, routinely filling thousands of prescriptions a week. When I asked the owner what his secret was, he told me about the usual suspects – a great staff, loyal customers, and so on. Then he mentioned what I now see was his X Factor:
Every day he has two full-time drivers do nothing but deliver prescriptions to his customers for free. “And I only hire retired gentleman,” he told me. Given many of his customers are ill or even invalid, it’s a brilliant idea.
So that is the answer. You don’t have to yell or be obnoxious to get noticed. You have to be different and better. What is your business differentiator? Figure it out, tout it and customers will find you and frequent your business more often – if not for the huevos rancheros then definitely for the free WiFi.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success. © Steven D. Strauss.
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