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General Business

3 Posts authored by: Joel Comm

There’s never been a tougher time to own a local business. Today, anyone can order the same goods they’d find in a brick and mortar store using their mobile phones from billion-dollar businesses with huge economies of scale. They can get those purchases delivered to their door the very next day, or even the same day, without ever leaving the sofa, let alone looking for a parking space or waiting in line.

 

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It’s no wonder chains as ubiquitous as Toys R Us, Payless Shoes, and Borders have all closed stores or gone out of business in the last few years while the value of Amazon’s shares almost doubled between April 2017 and April 2019.

 

The rise and convenience of Internet shopping mean local firms need to look beyond the simple exchange of goods for money as the foundation of their businesses. Any outlet can do that. They need to offer something that Amazon and other online businesses can’t deliver—and that’s a personal service.

 

They need to stop being stores and start becoming neighborhood institutions.

 

It’s a role some stores have always played. The owners of local hardware stores never just sold hammers and bags of nails. They also talked to their customers about the projects they were working on or the repairs they were making. They pointed them to tools better suited for the job and gave them advice about avoiding mistakes. That advice was both personalized and localized.

 

The value of that personal advice is why a huge company like Apple has expanded its Today at Apple sessions. Those creative lessons help customers to get more out of their iPads and Macs, but they also turn Apple stores, already best known for their Genius Bars, into personal learning centers as well as retail outlets.

 

They give people a reason to come through the door instead of buying online.

 

That’s exactly what local businesses need to do. They must expand beyond retail sales to include events and experiences related to the products and services they sell.

 

    • It’s always possible to buy clothes online, for example, but only a local clothing store will work with local designers and provide an outlet for students studying fashion at the community college.

 

    • Paint supplies are easy to purchase but only a local art shop can also run a class and provide models for local artists.

 

    • Anyone can work out alone but only a local fitness center can provide a personal coach and the camaraderie of working out with other people.

 

All those services allow the business to do more than exchange a good or supply a service. They build a relationship with a customer. They turn the customer into a friend. They make the customer feel welcome and they lead the customer to trust the business that they buy from.

 

Check out how Barebottle Brewing Company builds relationships with their customers in the Bay area.

 

The way for local businesses to compete with online businesses is to make use of their local advantages. Make customers feel welcome. Know their names and the problems that they want the store to solve. Give them an experience they just can’t get online.

 

When that happens people won’t just be willing to put down their phones and get off the sofa. They’ll want to visit you. They’ll want to do business with you.

And they’ll want to keep you in business.

 

Watch our videos about Nashville and Atlanta small businesses:

 

About Joel Comm

 

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As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Joel Comm to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Joel Comm is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Joel Comm. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

You’re not unique. Whatever you do, someone else is doing the same thing—or something very similar.

 

That’s how it should be. If your business really were the only one in its field, there would be a reason for that, and that reason is likely everyone else already discovered it’s a bad idea. When an idea is good it always has competitors.

 

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That truth is why hundreds of companies churn out almost identical glass and metal devices for making phone calls and connecting to the Internet. And although there is no shortage of car companies, it’s why they all offer similar solutions to the same transportation problem. And it’s why when venture investors hear an entrepreneur say they don’t really have any competitors, investors roll their eyes, shut their wallets, and assume the founder hasn’t done the research.

 

Everyone has competitors.

 

Successful businesses know how to stand out from their competitors.

 

One way to do that is to know your unique selling proposition (USP) —and make that USP clear to everyone else. When prospective customers think of your company they should know what you do, what your competitors do, and how you do it in a different way.

 

In the smartphone industry, for example, Apple has managed to brand itself as the company that pays the most attention to design. It even has its own app store and its own operating system so it can retain control over the way the phone looks and behaves. Samsung? Well, that’s the non-Apple in the market. Its phones are also well designed—its curved edges and equally high prices make that clear. But it’s not dependent on Apple’s software or user experience, and it offers a look that’s just different from Apple’s well-known branding. Mi is best known for its low prices, and Blackberry is still touting its business-friendly keyboard.

 

Those differences aren’t huge. All of the devices made by these companies largely do the same thing. But Apple’s USP of “better design” is enough to help differentiate the company, and it’s consistent in all the company’s products. Whether someone buys an iPhone or a Mac, they know they’re getting that same emphasis on design and functionality.

That quality helps the company stand out, and it encourages consumers to choose Apple over competitor brands.

 

A set of features only does part of the work helping a company’s products stand out, though. It’s what happens when you put those features together that has the biggest effect.

 

That’s what creates the company’s voice.

 

One of the most prominent effects of social media marketing has been the deepening of the relationship between brands and customers. People now see marketing messages from businesses mixed in with updates from their friends. They hear their friends talking about their trip to the beach, then they hear a restaurant talk about their new menu item. Those messages need to fit that casual environment.

 

Even if your product is made by 20 other companies, you should be able to identify a set of characteristics unique to the products your company makes. They could be an element of your design, the warmth of your customer service, your emphasis on low prices, or anything else that sets you apart. No one business can do all of those things. Apple can’t be cheap and luxurious. Blackberry can’t be professional and fun. There’s always room for your business to carve out a strong USP.

 

One way to think about this is that you should know what those characteristics would sound like if you were to put them together in a person. You should know how your brand would speak, how it would dress and what it has planned for the weekend.

 

When you can give your products a unique experience and combine that experience with an authentic voice, you’ll have a company that has a real relationship with customers, and that stands out in a crowd like a friend.

 

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About Joel Comm

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 9.16.44 AM.png

As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Joel Comm to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Joel Comm is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Joel Comm. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

If you want your business to succeed, you have to work hard. You have to hustle and grind. You have to burn the midnight oil, give up your weekends, and wave goodbye to your hobbies. While you’re building your business, you have to assume that that business will be your life. It’s going to be a long, hard slog.

 

This is the message we hear so often. We hear it so much that we assume the only path to success lies through sacrifice and sadness.

 

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It doesn’t have to be that way.. For many incredibly successful people, it isn’t that way.

 

Some of the biggest successes I’ve had have come while developing products where the process was so much fun that my team and I barely knew we were working.  We didn’t stay late at the office. We didn’t burn through weekends or miss school concerts to attend boring meetings. We just focused on enjoying ourselves and making something that we thought had a viable market.

 

We believed that a product that was fun to make would be even more fun to use. And we were right.

 

The same principle applies to every business and field. You don’t have to choose between enjoying yourself now and achieving success in the future. You can have both.

Start by finding the thing you love to do. That might not be the highest paying thing you could do, but as long as it pays your bills and puts a roof over your family’s head, it is the thing you should do.

 

Identifying that activity isn’t as easy as it sounds. Because we assume that work is hard, and fun isn’t work, we don’t always see the activities we enjoy can also become sustainable businesses. If you have doubts start slowly. Test the ground by selling your cupcakes at a food fair and checking the feedback, or by trying out a stand at an art fair. The more you sell, the more experience you’ll build and the greater your confidence will become.

 

You don’t have to rush into the business. Do it at a pace that feels comfortable.

 

You can also learn to say “no.”

 

So much of the work we do is work for others that we’d prefer not to do. Sure, you have to keep your customers happy, and it’s important to show your dedication sometimes. But the penalty for declining to take work that pays little and delivers large amounts of frustration is often much smaller than you’d think. It’s often a price you’d be more than willing to pay.

 

It’s not easy to say “no” to work. But once you start doing it—and your business life starts getting better—you’ll find it becomes easier to do.

 

But the most important way to build a business that compliments the life you enjoy is not to worry about the stuff that other people are doing.

 

Part of being in business is being in competition. But being the best isn’t the same as making the most sales, landing the largest number of new clients, working the most hours, or growing at the fastest rate. Its also about enjoying your life as much as you can.

 

Some other entrepreneur might appear to be more successful than you. They might appear to be taking on more staff, spending more on advertising, and building up a bigger following. But if they’re working more hours, spending less time with their families, and enjoying themselves less, then you’re coming out ahead.

 

Your business doesn’t have to be your life. But the two will always be connected. As long as you enjoy your business, you’ll be enjoying your life and doing good stuff.

 

 

About Joel Comm

 

Screen Shot 2019-02-08 at 9.16.44 AM.png

As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.

 

Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.

 

Web: https://joelcomm.com/ or Twitter: @JoelComm

Read more from Joel Comm

 

Bank of America, N.A. engages with Joel Comm to provide informational materials for your discussion or review purposes only. Joel Comm is a registered trademark, used pursuant to license. The third parties within articles are used under license from Joel Comm. Consult your financial, legal and accounting advisors, as neither Bank of America, its affiliates, nor their employees provide legal, accounting and tax advice.

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