Whether you are an entrepreneur or work for someone else, it’s vitally important that you conduct your business in such a way that you stand out from the pack. I constantly advise my clients on ways they can differentiate their products and services from their competition, because ultimately, it’s more important to be different that better. Everyone says they are “the best” in their field, but “best” is always going to be in the eyes of the beholder. Different is, well, different and much more believable and easily explained.
With that said, it’s important as individuals to stand out from the crowd as well. People work with people, not products or services. I will often choose to frequent a restaurant or store because I like the people who work there. Yes, they have to provide a product that I like and am willing to pay for. But when faced with multiple options, I’ll often choose the place that has the people I like best, sometimes even regardless of price.
So, how exactly do you stand out? You’d be surprised how easy it is. Here are a few simple suggestions that really work.
Answer your emails
I’m amazed at how many people don’t do this. Even a short “I am swamped right now, but will review the document and get back to you by the end of the week,” will accomplish a few good things. First, you’ll inform the sender that you received the email so they don’t have to wonder if it went through. Secondly, you acknowledge them and let them know when to expect a response. Thirdly, you’ll make them feel valued and not leave them wondering what your lack of response really means.
Keep your promises
First of all, don’t make promises you can’t keep. And more importantly, keep the ones you make. Again, this seems like the simplest advice, but it surprises me how many people don’t do this either. Be realistic with the deadlines you set for yourself, and communicate that to your clients. They will appreciate that you are taking the time to keep them abreast on the status of their project. And if something comes up – as it does for all of us from time to time – don’t leave them wondering where their project is. Take 30 seconds to send an update email to let them know where their project is and if it is delayed. Unless you are trying to meet a specified date, most people can be flexible with deadlines. What hurts the relationship is not knowing where they stand.
Ah, this can be the hardest thing of all, but one of the most effective ways to set yourself apart. I’ve said it before, but no one can be all things to all people. Some work that comes our way may be appealing, but it’s simply not in our sweet spot. Maybe it’s for a niche we don’t normally service, or it could be work that will not be profitable. Carefully consider new work before you take it on and make sure you are the best person for the job. And if not, refer it to someone better suited for it. You will benefit in a number of ways from this move. First, your client will appreciate that you found someone who can do the work better/cheaper/more efficiently and remember that fact when something more suited to you comes along. Secondly, the person you refer it to will appreciate the business and happily send work your way when they can. And most importantly, you will be able to spend time on the things that will truly grow your business and not get bogged down in work that takes more time and effort than it should.
What simple business tactics have you found to be effective? Send them on and I’ll post them in a future blog.