Unless you are a genius, who has just invented an absolutely new, never before seen product or service, starting a business means coming to an already existing market divided into established shares. If you intend to get your piece of this pie, you’ll have to carve into something that’s already on someone else’s plate. And it isn’t going to be easy – you’ll have to give people with already established habits a very good reason to abandon them and come to you.
Contrary to popular belief, small businesses have certain advantages over giants in this respect, especially now. Big business has to cater to wider audiences, which means less specialization – if you concentrate on a very small subcategory and adapt your offer for them, you will be able to win them over. You can use your underdog status itself – everybody likes a perky David giving a lumbering Goliath a run for his money. As for the actual strategies, here are some you may apply right now:
Even if you don’t invent anything new with your product/service, there are always ways to make it at least somewhat more innovative than existing alternatives. Innovation may be in the product itself or in the way you distribute it, the kind of after-sales service you provide or anything else you can think of. Just make sure you don’t sell something that is identical to what all your competitors offer.
2. Use Coupons and Coupon Platforms
People like good deals, and we live in the age when frugality once again becomes fashionable – at least among certain categories of people. The times of cutting newspapers for coupons are in the past – today’s couponing is a fast and comfortable pastime beneficial for customers and businesses alike. Simply by registering with a well-reputed coupon platform, you will gain powerful leverage you can use to snatch customers from a complacent competitor.
3. Buy Other’s Customer Lists
In any industry, there is always some movement: new businesses appear, and the old go away. You simply have to keep your eyes peeled for competitors that are likely to go out of business, sell out or change specialization and buy their customer lists when such an opportunity arises. Don’t wait for clients to come to you – get to them first!
4. Respond to Customers Quickly
Or, rather, at once. Modern people have an extremely short attention span and too many alternatives to choose from. If you don’t respond to them immediately, they simply go looking elsewhere. If you don’t make a visible effort to solve their problem the minute they contact you, they feel neglected. And remember – an efficiently and successfully solved problem makes for a more memorable pleasant customer experience than an interaction with a business that went without a hitch.
5. Use Customer Generated Ideas
Not everything your customers say is pure gold and should be acted upon immediately – but it serves as a fairly good indication of what they want. If you pay attention to the wishes of your (or your competitors’) clients and deliver accordingly, you will create a business image that is pleasantly different from the majority of companies out there.
Carving up a market share for yourself is the most important job that arises in front of a newly formed business, and timidity is certainly not a winning strategy. You have to do everything better, faster and cheaper than your competitors – they have already established themselves, and you have to offer an improvement on what they offer if you want to make a name for yourself.
Melissa Burns is an entrepreneur and independent journalist who spends her time writing articles, overviews, and analyses about entrepreneurship, marketing, business innovations, and technology. She has also conducted workshops and provided consulting services for young, but promising start-ups. Follow her @melissaburns