Standing out in a DIY world
As an entrepreneur, the chances are pretty high that the services you offer can be done by anyone — DIY, in some cases. Before you blow a gasket, know I am on your side. Just because someone else can perform your service or create your product for cheaper (or worse DIY), it doesn’t mean you don’t bring value to the marketplace.
According to the 2016 Kaufman Index (as referenced in this Inc Magazine article, last year, women-owned start-ups reached its highest rate in almost two decades, rising from 220 per 100,000 to 260. With that number nearly doubling for new businesses started by men in the same time frame, it’s really not surprising that there is a lot of competition, especially with the internet making the barrier of entry much smaller. Then add how technology allows people access to all sorts of resources and you have a whole different type of competition.
I’ve been working in marketing for over a decade, I don’t even think I have enough fingers and toes to count the number of times someone has told me they can perform a service my firm offers. This is what I have come to understand: though they might provide a solution to the same problem, what they can’t replace is the countless hours I have dedicated to my craft. You can go buy all the tools in the world that I use, but unless you can get in my brain, you will never be able to duplicate my experiences that have made me an expert in my field. If you’re a writer, graphic designer, photographer or really any professional service industry, I’m sure you have a story or two of your own to tell.
So, how do we fix it? Well, I’m so glad you asked. And a side note, I am not against DIY, I’m actually for it, much of what I promote on this website is DIY. But I also understand what my own limitations are and what other creatives and professionals bring to the table. Because of the availability of so many tools, it has become part of our job as professionals is to help educate consumers so they know the difference.Unfortunately, it’s a long process, but it’s possible to make your services stand out in such a way that you hear less of the DIY responses. Here are the two most important pieces that will give backbone to your business:
- Be the best. Is this subjective? Yes. But there are things you can do so you are the best in your customer’s eyes. Stay educated on the latest trends happening in your industry. Know the trendsetters and follow their lead when it makes sense – or even better, be a trendsetter. Work tirelessly to improve your craft. If you have a passion for your work, it will show through.
- Build your brand. Everyone has a brother, cousin or friend of a friend that “do” what you do. But if you have established your brand, you have something those people don’t. Branding will set you apart not only from your competitors but from the copycats and the novices.
If you are doing these two things you are already ahead of the game. Here are some tactical things you should start doing if you haven’t already.
Know your ideal customer. Part of the reason you might be getting pushback is that you aren’t targeting your true potential customer. Many business owners tend to want to say that everyone can benefit from their services, and where this may be true, this is part of the problem. Identify the person who truly values your work. Who are they? Get detailed. You can base this off one of your current customers or you can make it up. How old are they? What do they value? What kind of books do they read? The more you understand your customer, the better you will do at business. Use the Branding Basics Worksheet to really get this figured out.
Become an expert in your industry. How do you make yourself stand out from the novices? Prove you’re an expert. Blogging is a perfect way to do this and there are many benefits: it will help people find you online, it allows people to get to know you before they even pick up the phone and it works as counseling for you, allowing you to educate your customers and dispel myths that people have accepted as fact.
Gather testimonials. When you have completed a project and have a happy customer, ask them to write a review. Either something you can use on your website or, if appropriate ask if they will leave you a review on Yelp, LinkedIn, Amazon or any other professional review site that makes sense for your business. Reviews are third-party endorsements that consumers take very seriously. Don’t be too humble to ask.
Go where your people are. There are more affordable tools out there to advertise your business than ever before. Use them. Try Google AdWords and Facebook advertising. These tools allow you to truly drum down and reach your ideal customer. Check out online message boards and social media groups. Understand what your customers are looking for by keeping up with what is important to them.
Trade with your tribe. Chances are as you have built your business you have connected with other business owners that offer a different service than you do. Maybe you have no idea what to do when it comes to advertising on Facebook, but try offering to trade your services within your network. This is a great way to expand what you are able to for yourself and also build an even stronger referral source. (Don’t forget to ask for a testimonial or review when you have finished the work.)
The truth is you will always find people that think they can do your job or that they can get the same services somewhere else for cheaper. But if you keep true to your brand and are offering a service or product with a demand, you will always have customers who are willing to pay you because of the value you bring to the table