Owning your own home is said to be the American dream. Owning their own business is the way many plan to fund that dream. Statistics indicate that 80% of small business starts fail within the first two years, another 10% within five years. There is no single reason, rather a combination of factors. Those factors generally include: undercapitalization, lack of planning, no experience, insufficient education, loss of motivation beyond the idea stage, inability to understand the hiring process, unfamiliar with tax and legal issues affecting small business owners, trying to do it all yourself, not knowing when to get help and how to find quality coaching/mentoring resources.
Small business owners often find themselves in burnout as they try to do it all. It’s hard to delegate your “baby” to others who don’t have your dreams for the future. Are those dreams based on reality? To get anything generally requires we have to help others get what they want. Business owners who beat the odds recognize that no matter what, they are in the customer service business, first, middle, and last. Small business owners often bought into the “build a store and they will come how much is yours worth?” fantasy only to discover that sinking all their capital into a location before they had a market left them financial drained. Many small business owners either develop or market a unique product they hope everyone will want, or they find a niche that is underserved and fill it.
Illustration of a Unique Product: You may have developed the greatest widget ever. It does it all, it can be folded, spindled and mutilated and it will still deliver perfect service every time. For those of us in the real world, we recognize that almost any product has a predecessor. What sets your product apart is how you market it. Take for example how Volvo began marketing their vehicles.
Remember how they would show a head-on crash and you were amazed that the hood folded up in an upside-down “V” protecting the windshield; and, the engine was slanted to go under the car instead of through the firewall into the passenger compartment? We all thought that was innovative and showed superior design, so much so that generations of us bought a Volvo, paying as much as 10-15% more for those ‘safety’ features. Now, the truth: American auto manufacturers had been using similar safety features for years! Look under the hood of your American made car or truck and note the notches cut into the steel on each side. Yup! Those are there to collapse the hood into the upsidedown “V” position if you get hit head on. Their engines are also designed to drop and go under. That my friend is the power of marketing; but the difference is that Volvo TOLD us about it and that made them look like champs.
What do you do that everyone else does in your business? Who markets that concept as though they invented it? Try this one that I read recently:
“Who do you think brought the idea of payroll services to the market? Why settle for the Johnny-come-lately ‘payroll experts’ who want to copy our success? Allow us to become your payroll service provider. Our history, experience, and training make us the best choice for your business and we will still be here long after the others are gone. Your payroll services are in the right hands, if you will call today. Cheerful customer service people are standing by for your call. Call XXX-XXXX to put the strongest payroll service provider to work for you. We are ready to serve.”
Now, take that ad apart. Did they actually say they “invented” the concept? Not at all, but by clever wording, they positioned themselves as the most established provider. Note how the ad creates the impression that newcomers are merely imitators, without anything original to offer. The third sentence reinforces the first two. The fourth sentence takes the assumptive role that you are already a client; you just don’t know it yet. The “if” creates a since of urgency and gives you the sense that your decision is completely yours but is a clever way to push for the decision “today”. Finally, the transition is made to calling for an appointment, that nice people with your best interests at heart are eagerly waiting by the phone to fulfill their life-long dream of helping you. The ad is a work of sheer genius.
The truth? This supposed inventor of the concept proved to be a startup company run by a very nice lady working from her home. She had just completed a course on payroll processing after purchasing a payroll module for a well-known accounting software package. Her total experience in payroll included six weeks on-the-job training working for someone else. In our interview, she admitted that the ad had already produced thirty new customers in the first 60 days. She had beat out over a dozen established payroll service vendors who only relied on word of mouth. By running a couple of ads in the local flea market newspaper, posting it on her chamber of commerce website, and by targeted mail, she was processing over 3,500 payroll checks for her clients. At $1.60 per employee per pay period her revenue stream was well over $11,000/month (two pay periods X 3500 X $1.60).