How to make sure your small business stands out from the crowd

11th April 2022

If you’re a small business owner, you’re probably familiar with the statistics surrounding business failure rates in South Africa. A whopping 70% to 80% of SMMEs fail during the first year, and around half of those who survive only do so for about five years.

Even though these businesses play a huge part in South Africa’s economic growth and employment, our country has one of the lowest rates of small business success in the world. There are tons of reasons why businesses fail, but one of the main reasons is that many of them aren’t able to stand out from the crowd and capitalise on their unique selling proposition (USP).  

Standing out from your competition is critical to your business’ success. While most people understand this in theory, many fail to put it into practice.

Many businesses believe they need to have a broad focus and keep up with the Joneses to avoid missing income possibilities. However, the converse is true. Your business must be noticed to be successful. And to be noticed, you’ve got to focus on what makes you special. Otherwise, you risk looking like everyone else, making it more difficult for your customers to notice your brand.

If you're stuck on how to capitalise on your unique selling point and differentiate your business, here are 5 ways to make your business stand out from the rest!

1. Make sure your branding is unique and memorable

Did you know that the first impressions of a brand are established within the first ten seconds? This is why everyone is always talking about making sure your branding is on point. When it comes to gaining recognition, you need to distinguish yourself from your competition. 

So, what makes your brand messaging different to your competitors? Is your brand’s look and feel the same as what everyone else is doing, or does it tell your own unique story about why and how your business came to be? 

Take FNB’s use of an Acacia tree in their logo. What does a tree have to do with banking? Well, absolutely nothing at all. But the Acacia tree is connected to a story relevant to FNB, and while most people don’t know this, the brand is instantly recognisable because of it. Without uttering a single word, the right logo communicates everything. It establishes a bond between a brand and its customers.

2. Ensure everyone who visits your shop leaves with a smile on their face and a reason to visit again.

Losing customers because of poor customer service is just not an option in today’s competitive market. Excellent customer service should be front and centre of your business’s priorities. Importantly, customer retention requires monitoring and responding to both good and negative reviews. 

If you cannot provide outstanding in-person customer service, you should make every attempt to remedy the situation by replying to a client’s poor review; being receptive to feedback is crucial. It goes without saying that pleasing your customers is key to enjoying their ongoing support.

3. Make sure Google knows you exist.

Almost 97% of buyers begin their search for local companies online, taking to Google before they make a query or purchase. Developing a strong online presence is therefore critical to converting potential customers into loyal ones. 

First things first, sign your business up for a business profile on Google. That way, you’ll give customers a legitimate source of information about your business, making first-timers more likely to trust you. Google Business Profiles allow you to upload contact details and pictures, and gives customers the chance to leave you a review. 

If you’d like to go one step further and kick start a more in-depth digital presence, social media is the way to do it. To leverage this fairly cost-effective strategy, all you need are a couple of easy tips and tricks to grow your following and increase brand exposure and you’ll be good to go! It’s always good to start with a plan and decide which platforms are best for your business. That is, which ones are used by your target audience. Once you’re up and running, focus on engaging with your followers and building relationships.

Remember, social media platforms are always coming out with new and exciting in-app tools and services. To make the most of them, you need to be on top of your game and willing to adapt to whichever way the wind blows.

4. Give back to your community

Almost 92% of customers believe that their brand perception improves when a business supports a social or environmental cause. Contributing to your community is an excellent way to show customers that you care about more than just your business’s income. That being said, the trick here is to support a cause that aligns with your brand. Simply because you’re a cat person does not mean that you have to back an animal sanctuary. Instead, choose a cause that is a good fit for your business and your clients. For example, if you own a toy store, you could donate some toys to a local children’s home. 

Customers tend to cite “similar values” as the main reason why they trust their favourite brands. As a business owner, you need to locate and optimise those shared values.

5. Maintain excellent customer service

Customer service can make or break your business!

Good customer service will help you gain lifelong supporters, while poor customer service can ruin any chance you had with prospective new ones, while making a dent in your existing customer base.   

Be “extra” when it comes to customer service. Think out of the box and cover all your bases. For example, keeping an eye on your online reviews, saying thanks for the positive ones and showing initiative to address any negative feedback goes a long way. People appreciate being listened to and prioritised. Excellent customer service is one of the easiest ways to stand out and secure a loyal customer.

Your business CAN stand out from the crowd!

These are only a few ways to differentiate your small business: from providing exceptional value, to having fun with giveaways, forming unique partnerships, or establishing a strong fanbase. Whatever strategy you choose, don’t be a wallflower and blend in — be inspired and dare to be different.