“This isn’t what I signed up for. Big corporations and franchises are killing me. Quality and service are disappearing, and people are being sold ‘OK’ products in well-designed packaging.”
This is how my conversation with a local business owner began. He looked defeated, and I could sense that he was concerned about where to go next with his business.
In business, each day brings new challenges. Sometimes there are obstacles you face that seem insurmountable. You get tired and discouraged. It’s OK to feel that way sometimes. You’re human. But what you do with it determines your success or demise.
Focus on your WHY, not your WHAT
As my conversation with this local business owner unfolded, I asked him why he started his business. He said he knew he could offer his audience great products. He believed in quality above all else. We hear this a lot. It’s the my-stuff-is-better-than-the-other-guy’s-stuff position – an acceptable place to begin, but not quite a compelling WHY. In many cases, the product itself lands in second place, or maybe even third. It’s more about the experience. Start by asking yourself these questions:
- How do you make an emotional connection with your audience?
- How does your audience feel when they’re interacting with you?
- How do you make their lives better, easier, safer?
- Why would they feel pride in patronizing your business.
Large, corporate brands have answered these questions successfully. It’s why people accept pretty packaging and sales pitches over quality. After all, there may be better shoes on the market than Nike, and better food than Chipotle. But these brands are known for the experience they deliver. As an independent, small business, you can too.
Don’t chase the competition
Whether it’s a large corporation or the franchisee around the corner, let them tell their story while you tell yours. It’s easy to get hung up in the temptation to list everything they do better than you, review all the resources they have that you don’t, or even try to mimic what they’re doing. It’s OK to know their brand and marketing strategy, but it’s key to tell your own story. Be different. Connect with an audience that appreciates you for being different and delivering something they want and need.
During my conversation with this local business owner, I encouraged him to slow down and articulate his WHY. His is a competitive industry, and there are many choices for consumers. Why would they choose his business? Why do people appreciate what he has to offer? What is really his competition? It may not be similar establishments, or even his industry. Perhaps the competition is something else entirely, something he hadn’t considered.
If you’re starting a business and find yourself focusing on the WHAT and not the WHY, you’re not alone. This scenario is very common. Take the time to dig into it, and identify what takes a customer from being a transaction to being a loyal fan of your brand. It’s what creates experience, one that you foster with each and every touch point in your business.
At Kolbeco, we use a series of questions that explore your story in a way that you may not have thought about it before. We ask you to share:
- The passion that inspired you to start your business
- The beauty and uniqueness of who you are and what you do
- The impact of what you do and why it matters that your business exists
- What will people say when you are no longer here.
Ultimately, you can make money do lots of things but you chose this, and you choose to keep doing it each day. As you contemplate these questions, I would encourage you to get out of the business for day and sit in a cabin, in a park, or wherever a calm and happy place for you might be, and really answer these questions at a deep level. Go back to the beginning. Remove all other thoughts, challenges, and limiting beliefs. Once you get back to that you will find the other noise starts to tune itself out and you will enjoy the path to success much more.