7 tips to make your small business stand out from your competitors

As a small business owner, one of your biggest challenges will be finding a way to stand out from the competition.

But how do you find what makes you special or different from the rest, especially when you’re not a branding expert?

How can you use customer service to win you more work?

Use these 7 tips to do just that and more.

Be a specialist rather than a generalist

It might sound counter-intuitive but doing it all won’t necessarily get you more work.

The most successful companies aren’t successful because they are like everyone else.

They are successful because they are different from the average business.

Think about it from the perspective of a customer.

If I want to redo the floor of my home, I’m not going to call a general contractor.

I’m more likely to call a flooring expert.

When you specialise, you create a unique selling point.

Specialists also get paid more per job because they are seen as having more expertise than a general contractor.

To decide on what to specialise in, consider the following:

  • What are your favourite services to provide and what do you do well
  • What services are most in demand in your service area

Once you decide on what you want to specialise in, you might want to consider the following:

  • Include what you do in your business name. This makes it easy for people to identify what your business does.
  • Update your marketing and website to highlight your specialties
  • Speak to other companies that might want someone with your particular expertise

Stay on top of your bookkeeping

You might wonder how this helps you win more customers.

Customers like when the businesses they hire are professional and organised.

They don’t like having to chase up businesses that don’t send them invoices or send the invoices with issues on them.

They also don’t like limited payment options.

Think about how your bookkeeping will affect their customer experience.

Is this difficult or is this so easy that I’m not going to tell my friends how much of a pleasure it was to do business with you?

It doesn’t have to be too complicated.

Things you can do:

  • Use a simple invoice app like Bookipi to create your invoices. You can create and send invoices in under a minute no matter where you are.
  • Accept payments through one of Bookipi’s available payment integrations.
  • Add automatic overdue reminders for when your clients don’t pay you.

Another thing to keep in mind is your expenses.

Have you kept track of any expenses you have incurred and did you account for them in the beginning?

Customers won’t be impressed if their final invoice has extra lines of expenses that you didn’t tell them about.

Make it easy for people to find you

In the digital age, it is essential that someone can find you online.

You’ll miss every customer who searches online for businesses if you’re not online.

On top of that, once they’ve found you, you need to have a good enough online profile to convince them to use you.

How you can build your online presence:

  • Create a website. Make sure you include all the services you offer and the areas you offer them to. Also include a way for customers to contact you, whether it be a contact form, your phone number or email address. To make your website even better, include plenty of photos of work you’ve done before and share information about your business and what your business stands for.
  • Set up at least one social media page for your business. Not every social media platform will suit your business but signing up for at least one platform and sharing content about the jobs you’re working on and the services you offer will show that you are an engaged part of the community.

Never overpromise

It’s easy to exaggerate how quickly and cheaply your business can get a job done.

It’s especially tempting when you’re competing against someone else for a job.

However, when you inevitably fail to meet those expectations, you’ll only damage your relationship with the client.

Develop an open and honest relationship with your clients.

Your clients will respect you more for your honesty.

Set reasonable expectations and if you end up beating those expectations, your customers will only be impressed.

On top of that, if you overdeliver, they’re more likely to refer you to their friends.

Communication is key

Good communication is important at every step of the customer journey.

You need it to win jobs and you need it to run jobs properly.

When communication breaks down, it can sour your relationships with your clients and employees if you have any.

Build strong communication straight away.

Clearly communicate your expectations for the project.

Ask your clients as many questions as you need to do the job well.

Once you’ve been hired, make sure you regularly check in with them to let them know how the project is going and if you come across any unexpected issues.

If your client has any questions, be sure to follow them up appropriately and settle any worries they might have.

The worst thing you can do as a contractor is undercommunicate because that leads the client to thinking something has gone wrong or the project won’t finish on time.

Here are some tips to improve communication:

  • Ask the client how often they want to be updated. It can be helpful to set up a regular update. Depending on the size of the project, that update could be daily, weekly, fortnightly or monthly.
  • Make time for answering client questions. You can do this by designating a set time every day where you answer emails and call clients.
  • Ask questions. It’s better to ask too many questions and know more than you need to than to not understand it at all.

Always follow up enquiries

You want to be turning enquiries into paying customers.

Create a follow up strategy for those that email or call you about your services.

It might feel awkward and uncomfortable at first but it will help you close deals.

When you call or email them, ask them if they’ve had time to think about the project and if have any more questions for you.

If you speak to them like you’re trying to help them with their problem, it won’t feel as ‘salesy’.

In your follow-ups, present your estimates to them and go over the pricing and services in detail.

Make sure you lay out all the information clearly so they aren’t confused by what you have to offer.

Here are some things to think about when creating you strategy:

  • What will your schedule be? How many days after you answer their first enquiry will you follow them up? Create a schedule and set a specific time and day to do the follow ups.
  • What is the best way to present your estimate? How can you clearly communicate what you have included in the estimate? Think of some questions they might ask and prepare your answers
  • What kind of persona will you use on the call? Your mindset is everything and if you present yourself as helpful and informative, you’ll build trust between you and your customer.

Don’t be ashamed to ask for a referral

This can feel uncomfortable at first but if you want more work, you need to ask for it.

There’s no harm in saying to your clients after you finish a job, “It was a pleasure to do business with you. If you are happy with my services, I would appreciate it if you could recommend my business to your friends.”

If you provide a good service, most people are more than happy to help you if you ask them to.

You miss every shot you don’t take.

Here are some places you can ask them to review or recommend your business:

  • On social media – ask them to share your business or leave a review or recommendation on your page.
  • In conversation – get them to tell their friends about you when they need the services you offer.
  • On review sites – there are plenty of service/business review websites that people use to compare businesses. Ask them to leave a review about the services you provided them.

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