Let’s be honest, it’s hard to be unique online today. With how many people, businesses, and ideas there are, the likelihood that you’re the first one to do something is small. But even if you aren’t the first you can be the one known for it.
If few people are selling what you are, there’s still competition everywhere. People are either making the same products, or if you’ve got something new to bring to the market, people have already found and grown comfortable with substitutes. You’re competing with companies big and small to establish awareness, engagement, brand loyalty, and ultimately – sales. And if you’re a small business, being seen in a crowded market is even harder.
Look at it this way – in March 2020, there were more than 800,000 new businesses that were less than a year old. The year before that? Just over 770,000. According to Statista, the number of young entrepreneurial businesses has gone up every year since 2013, and there have been more than 500,000 each year since at least 1994. With those numbers, it’s not surprising how hard it is in pretty much every market to stand out and make a name for yourself.
But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s impossible. What it comes down to is having a strong brand that people can connect with and develop brand loyalty to. Then they’re more likely to buy your products or services repeatedly and recommend them to others. Word of mouth is huge for businesses big and small and if you can have people speaking good things about you into the universe, you’re already doing something right.
Now let’s talk about how to get there. it takes a lot of work to start a business and get the ball rolling. Once you have the basic info of your company nailed down (what you’re selling, how you’re going to do it, why you want to, etc.), there are four things we recommend focusing on to set yourself apart from competitors:
- Brand identity
- Social media
- Digital marketing
Depending on your background, business and customers, this list might seem easy, or it may be a little daunting. We’re going to break it down to get to the specifics of what to focus on and the difference those things can make for your company.
The main thing standing out comes down to is this – what makes you different? Why should people buy your products, engage with your content, buy in to what you’re selling? Seems simple, right? Not always. It’s all about your brand. From the logo to the tone of your content, people want to feel connected to you and your story. If they’re supporting a small business over a large corporation, chances are they want to feel like they’re contributing to something and someone and have a two-way connection with you rather than just spending their money.
You want to develop relationships with people, and that comes from being personable and having good products. You might have the best quality and turnaround time on the market, but if people don’t like you or what you stand for, chances are they’re going somewhere else. Your brand helps them develop that relationship because they feel connected to who you are and what you’re doing. It’s the first step in getting sales and developing that all important brand loyalty.
Having a good website starts with designing and building it the right way. There are so many places you can build your storefront nowadays, and they all have at least a few features that make them unique. So, before you develop your site you have to choose the right platform. From WordPress, Wix, and Squarespace to Shopify, Etsy and more, what you’re selling, and your workflow will determine your best course of action.
Once you have that nailed down, you have to design the site. You want it to match the look, feel, and tone of your brand so people know it’s you. Have about us and contact pages, showcase your work, make people feel connected to you the moment they click onto the homepage.
Once you’ve designed everything and have it ready to go live, you need a web management process. Making sure everything is working like it should and is as secure as possible is key to keeping people on the site. If a video isn’t loading properly or there are spam comments on every post, people are more likely to close the page and search for something else. Keep things working properly so they want to stay, see everything you have to offer and start adding things to their cart.
It’s no secret that if you want to build relationships with people and engage with customers, you need to be active on social media. Which platforms you spend the most time and effort on is really based on your customer base. If you’re trying to reach middle-aged women, Facebook is a good bet. But if you’re targeting Gen Zers, Instagram and TikTok are solid places to start. Wherever you’re posting content, you want to keep things on-brand. The tone of your captions, the footage in your videos, the look of your photos, they all need to feel connected so, just like your website, people know it’s you. Basically, you have a brand aesthetic with your designs and website that you want your social media to match.
When it comes to your actual posts, encourage engagement. Setting up groups, doing polls, asking for feedback, replying to comments – all these things show people you’re active and care about having a relationship with them. And not just that – for a small business it helps people realize there is a real human on the other side of their favorite company.
To increase sales, people first have to know you’re out there. That means expanding your reach and getting your products in front of new people. To do that, you need to create your digital marketing plan. Paying for ads in “traditional” ways (commercials, radio spots, billboards, etc.) can get expensive quickly, and depending on your customer base might not get you the results you want in the timeframe you want. That’s the perk of the digital landscape. There are multiple ways you can reach out to people and enhance relationships without paying an arm and a leg.
If your ideal customer is spending a lot of time on social media, meet them where they are. The beauty of social media ads is that you can create posts that showcase what they want to see and narrow the audience so you’re paying to put it on the feeds of the specific people you’re looking for – a true targeted audience.
Email marketing is a huge area that’s often overlooked. When people visit your website, even if they don’t make a purchase the first time around, getting their email is the jumpstart to a relationship. This allows you to communicate news, deals and more to them without minimal cost. You can reach specific groups based on their favorite/most viewed items, or your entire customer list with the click of a button. Emails can also be a reminder for people to come back to things they were looking at and lead to repeat sales after periods of no response.
Then there’s strategizing the content you’re already posting. Making sure your website is optimized for search engines is one of your strongest tools to get you on people’s radar. When they’re Googling things you offer, you want to come up at the top of the list, so they come to you first. Like we said earlier, you can’t make a sale if people don’t know you’re out there. Popping up on the top of their search is the first step in them getting to know you and making a connection.
Obviously, this isn’t an all-encompassing list of things that will set your business apart from others. However, it’s a strong start to help you create a wider, more engaged audience that can turn in to more sales.
How We Can Help
All these things can be a lot of work for any company, especially a small business with fewer people and resources. That’s where we come in. Our team thrives in all the areas we talked about, having worked with a variety of clients for each one. The companies we’ve worked with range from small local businesses to franchises and corporations. And our work isn’t focused on one industry. Fitness, sports recreation, staffing, custom handmade goods, and more, we’ve got a wide array of knowledge to work for your benefit.
We’re also not a one-size-fits-all company. We know that every business has different needs and goals, so we make sure we build plans unique to each client we have – something that brings in all the things most important to you when it comes to your digital needs. So, whether you want to work on all the areas we broke down, one of them, or a mixture of multiple, we’re here for you.
And we don’t have to start from scratch. We can help you take your existing brand design, website, social pages, or marketing efforts and revitalize your strategies so you see more success. If you’re not sure what you want or need, we can help with that too. Look through our site to see more about what we do, then fill out the contact form or reach out directly and we’ll get to know you and see how we can help!