Three Advantages that Make a Small Business Successful
Leaders drive successful small businesses with three special talents to find new ideas, unlock new revenue streams, and keep customers satisfied.
When a guy’s hard disk crashed, he called a local computer store where a friendly man informed him that he could replace the disk himself and avoid paying them $100. Surprised by his honesty, he asked, “Does your boss know that you discourage business?” He replied, “It’s my boss’s idea. We make more money when people try to fix it themselves first.
Running a small business is not easy. Building a startup can be just as tough. In the first year alone, both have a heads or tails chance of making it to the next year.
You can put the odds squarely in your favor if you develop these three abilities that are crucial for the success of your venture.
I have worked with entrepreneurs in marketing, programming, and hedge funds who took a dream and turned it into a small enterprise. Despite working in such diverse businesses, they all share a set of specific skills which propel them to greatness.
- Make sure you know who you are talking to.
This might be the most important part of your content and marketing campaign:
My last client worked for a hospital. The hospital wanted to sell a special therapy for maintaining muscle mass. It was mostly natural, a mixture of creams you could get at any pharmacy.
Sue insisted on talking about the diseases that come with poor muscle mass and the preventative ways the cream worked. She talked about the type of patients she had, and how this specific remedy helped them.
We met with limited success.
I started speaking to people who used the cream. After talking with patients, hospital staff, and the developer of the therapy itself, a different picture began to emerge.
It was an orderly who made the breakthrough:
“I use this stuff all the time. It helps my tennis game.”
“How old are you?”
“You aren’t sick.”
“Why do you have to be sick or injured to use this? The people who suffer from muscle mass need stuff much more powerful, and it has to be prescribed.”
My mouth dropped.
“You mean the people most likely to be interested in this therapy are healthy?”
“Yeah. My friend in pediatrics is a runner, and he uses this all the time.”
“How old is he?”
I go to Sue:
“This cream is for middle-aged men and women like you who need to spend more time outside, isn’t it?”
We stopped promoting this therapy as a medical solution. We repositioned it as a way for people to enjoy the full vigor of their own body.
We wrote articles for nature and hiking magazines. Then we posted ads in fitness magazines for baby boomers.
The moment we could identify the most likely interested, our content talked straight to them.
The campaign was a hit.
Getting Past the Initial Hurdle
When I ask small business owners who they are selling to, their first answer is the right one:
We sell to everybody.
That’s the winning attitude! The confidence that they will benefit everyone.
To reach that finish line, we start with the low-hanging fruit: The specific audience of people who will grab your product once they know about it.
I prefer to speak with the leaders of a company and their clients to find out who is the type of person most likely to be interested. Who is the leading candidate to click like, share, download, to give us their email address.
I develop content to answer the most critical question:
Who are we speaking to?
All it takes is a couple of strategically placed sentences that talk directly to the ideal candidate for purchase, and the level of engagement from your audience will flourish.
Startups and Small businesses start by catering to a specific niche market whose needs align with what they offer. As their niche audience engages, they discover more niche markets and keep growing.
2. Intelligent People Speak, Successful People Listen.
Bill led a marketing team of 50 people with a budget of $20 million. Mike, the hedge fund manager, moved over $100 million daily and usually finished up with 1–2% returns, netting over $1 million every day.
There was little you could tell them that they didn’t already know. But you wouldn’t think that when you spoke to them. Whenever I opened my mouth, they all took the same posture.
They were savvy enough to know that everything they have to say they already know but some of what others speak about they don’t know. They never needed to prove how smart they were by controlling the conversation.
For my 34th birthday, I got a $200 bottle of wine from Mike. He told me it was for an idea I gave him.
“I gave you a stock to trade?”
“No. You told me about a new restaurant you took your wife to. I heard another guy raving over it, so I decided to trade the parent company.”
The parent company was worth $100 million, and the uptick in sales for that specific restaurant didn’t make a dent in the stock price. Mike simply took an idea from something a few people said and did a little due diligence. Regardless of our reviews, the chart action on the stock itself said it was undervalued.
Small Talk can Lead to Big Ideas
Everyone has endured 100 failures made by 100 mistakes, only to find 100 ways to overcome them. In fact, a small business owner is likely to succeed if he has already failed once.
If you are doing this for the first time, you don’t have to take that step. All you have to do is ask the right questions and listen. Make everyone around you your personal internet.
Like these guys, always keep your eyes on the prize.
I know Bill hates politics. While he was mingling with a client, the man raged about how the Hispanics were destroying his country. I couldn’t wait to see what Bill would say to get him to stop. His wife’s parents immigrated from El Salvador.
He just smiled and kept on listening. He knew that building a business was more important than arguing.
Assuming Bill’s silence was his agreement, the guy got comfortable. They had another drink. Then he talked about the logistical challenges of helping his friend Jack win a local council seat in the next election and compared it to how he ran his business.
He mentioned a new tactic he was using to get his men motivated to work together as a team. As the man continued to divulge his secret, I saw Bill digesting everything.
At the end of the conversation, Bill looks pleased. The guy, thinking the smile was support for his politics, puts his arm around Bill and says, “You’re my kind of guy.”
Bill saved a good $150,000 on applying the tactic to his team. That November, Bill sends me a letter. In it is a copy of a receipt for a $20,000 check he wrote to the campaign of Jack’s opponent.
3. Master the Art of When Not to Be Smart.
One of my favorite clients became a success by mistake.
He wanted to develop an application that would double the speed of the internet. An MIT grad, he believed that his business had to be smart as well.
Every business is competing with people who are intelligent, experienced and have lots of resources. The instinct is to use the one thing you believe you have more of and try to outsmart them.
You get drawn into thinking that you have to have a more intelligent product.
After a few years, his team of developers found a way to boost the internet by 10%. They spent years finding ways to optimize blocks of code everywhere online, only to discover that the telecom companies improved internet speeds 50 times that amount in the same span.
But they were generating sales.
Before giving up, they asked their customers what made them interested.
The most common answer was, “When we apply your product to the browser, we don’t see any change in performance. When we put it onto a single application, it works wonders.”
Using their superior intelligence, they tried to revamp the entire world wide web and its 4.2 billion sites. They found out the only thing profitable was to make people’s YouTube experience a little better.
Realizing how “banal” their success was, they were more disappointed than excited.
They got over it quickly, making special “digital boosters” for the 10 most popular business applications.
The simple solution succeeded where the complex one flopped.
This might be why King Solomon says in Proverbs, “The bread is not to the wise.”
How A Load of Bread was made from a Load of Bread
My father had a fraternity brother with a business class project. He had to make a business plan. Looking around in the college town, he realized that everyone was eating sandwiches, but with the same tuna and turkey.
What if he made a sandwich shop in the center of town? What if he bought bread, tuna, meat, and condiments in large bulk and worked out discounts with the suppliers so he could offer individual sandwiches at prices affordable to college students?
Some guys thought it was “too small” for a business class project. I mean, sandwiches?
When Fred talked about it with his teacher, the professor even loaned him $500 to get started.
This simple idea became the first store of Fred DeLuca — the founder of Subway, and its 37,000 franchises.
Twenty-Five years later, my father gets an invite to his college reunion. It was written on Subway stationery.
The founder of a successful company may be intelligent, but his strength lies in the ability to see opportunities everywhere, especially when it’s sitting right in front of him.
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