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Bundle Up In This Cold Economy

package-deal

A few years ago, when the economy was booming, businesses could survive just by “being there.” People were spending money very freely, with little thought and even less discretion or care.

Cities and towns were filled with plenty of examples of “just another plumber” or “just another lawyer” or “just another restaurant” (Does every town really need a TGI Friday’s and a Chili’s? and an Applebee’s?). Despite this “blur of sameness,” there were plenty of customers and clients to go around for everyone.

But then came The Recession.

For the past four years, and likely continuing for at least the next few years, we’ve all been much more thoughtful and careful how we spend our money. We’ve become much more demanding, insisting on personal attention and memorable experiences in all but the most routine situations.

As a result, it’s been harder than ever for businesses to attract customers or clients. The days of “just being there” are long gone, if you want to survive – let alone succeed. In today’s economy, every small business owner must figure out a way to differentiate his business from his competitors, if he wants to avoid the stress and frustration characteristic of the life of most small business owners these days.

That was, in fact, the central theme of one of the best marketing books of all time, Jack Trout’s Differentiate Or Die, written over a decade ago.

Trout’s message is more important than ever for all small business owners today.

One of the most common responses I get when I explain this to groups of small business owners is, “Okay, Steve. I get it. I need to differentiate. So how do I stand out from the crowd when there’s nothing really special about my business?”

There are plenty of resources to help you craft your own Unique Selling Proposition, the best of which, in my opinion, is Bill Bodri’s excellent 176-page guide, “How To Write A Million Dollar USP.”

Finally, there’s a killer “bundling of services” strategy that I’ve used myself, and have helped clients implement many times. It takes work, but it’s a surefire path to separating yourself from your competition, and positioning yourself as a leader in your community to boot:

Take it upon yourself to gather together a group of your fellow small business owners, who serve a similar target market to yours.

Once you do that, you can benefit in a number of ways. Here are just two of them:

  1. Put together a Package of Services to offer as a bonus to your customers, clients or patients. Prospects won’t even think about comparing your competitors to you when your own offering includes thousands of dollars worth of free and discounted additional services (provided by these other businesses), such as “one free week of lawn maintenance,” “one free room of carpet cleaning,” “buy one meal, get one free,” etc.
  2. Co-host a special seminar, “trade show” or other event with these other business owners. All the participants can share the costs of putting on and promoting the event, and everyone will benefit from being able to introduce themselves to each other’s prospect lists. Those prospects will love the convenience of a “one-stop shopping experience” for related services, making you a hero to them and your fellow business owners.

A recent CNBC.com article detailed an excellent example of a couple of sharp businesswomen who recently employed this second strategy with tremendous results.

I highly recommend you orchestrate something similar. Your first event doesn’t have to be nearly as involved or extensive as this what these women put together – just get started by doing something.

Because you really can’t afford to do nothing, and continue to be seen as just another ___________________.

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