A copycat business approachMy guest blogger, Rachel Williams, recently wrote about an issue she encountered with a client asking her to basically copy what another company had written for their website. It made me cringe as a marketer not only from a copyright and legal point of view, but it conflicts with the best marketing practice on every level.

Now I’m a level headed, practical marketer and I don’t believe in re-inventing the wheel or dressing stuff up for the sake of it, but there does seem to be a lot of this mentality about and less discerning small business owners who cannot be bothered to clearly define what makes them different in the marketplace are looking for a quick route – or unashamed shortcuts – to getting their website, corporate brochure or email campaign content created.

Have you seen the recent raft of TV adverts from 1&1 Internet about their website offering with industry specific images and content? Now that might sound like a really quick way to create a website but it’s also a sure fire way to fail as a business. Yes, you will get a new website in a jiffy (and cheaply!) but you will also look like every other plumber, cafe or accountant out there!?!

This template approach to websites (or your business) just doesn’t work. And here’s why…

Understanding and creating a unique positioning for your business by identifying what makes you different and why customer should buy from you is fundamental to your marketing (and overall business success).

If all businesses were a ‘copycat’ or ‘mini-me’ of each other, then the only way customer could choose between us would be price. This starts a price war with everyone driving down price until the majority of businesses face economic failure and go out of business. And in the current economic climate we need all the help we can get and this copycat approach just isn’t the way to be successful.

Yes, it might be quick – but it’s a quick way to put yourself out of business!

By working with my clients to help them establish their USP so they can compete successfully and profitably, by attracting the right customers to their business. Often these businesses are in highly competitive sectors such as retail, travel and leisure or professional services, and despite this they have carved out a position for themselves and are successful in what they do.

So if you want to avoid the ‘mini-me’ approach to business failure follow my top 5 tips:

1. Dare to be different!

You need to identify what is it that your business does that makes you stand out from the crowd. And boy is the market crowded these days for all of us. Very few of us have some niche that is untapped by anyone else. And being the ‘me too’ of what’s already out there will not bring the rewards you seek. I often get people commenting on how fresh and appealing my branding and website is – this was highly intentional. I didn’t want to conform to the stereotype of a marketing consultant – a bit Corporate and conservative! I want to attract ambitious business owners to work with who want a ‘breath-of-fresh-air’ (not my words, my clients’ comments!) and approachable marketing expert to help them be more successful. Go on dare to be different!

2. Who do you want to work with or sell to?

We all too often (especially in the beginning when money is limited) sell to anyone who will buy from us. I know I was guilty of that at the beginning too. But you need to think long and hard about who your ideal or target customers are. Not all customers are created equal for your business.

3. What’s makes them tick?

It’s important to identify what motivates your ideal customers. What is their need, pain, problem or desire? Do you know? If you don’t know, how can you find out? Is there an occasion that drives the purchase? Or a life trigger or business event? You need to wrestle with these questions to be able to market your business successfully to them. Otherwise your marketing messages may fall on deaf ears.

4. Fish where the fish are!

No point dangling your fishing line in a barren sea with no fish to catch is there! Try to think through the decision-making and buying process your potential customers go through to buy your product or service.

Identify if they do research before a purchase – the larger the financial or emotional investment, typically the more research is done. Buying new computer software, a weekend away or a wedding dress, for example, will often have many hours invested in researching the purchase before a final decision is made. Think about how they will do their research.

Where do they look – do they use brochures, websites, social networks and review sites, seek advice from professional bodies, or rely on recommendation from a friend or colleague?

Will that purchase be made online, in a retail premises, or via several meetings face to face?

5. Hit the right tone

Now you’re ready to communicate your message. If copywriting isn’t your thing enlist the help of a marketing copywriter like Rachel, who can do this for you. It will take them a fraction of the time and get your communications out there quicker – and with more impact and better results. So it’s worth the investment. Meanwhile, you can focus on what you’re good at – running your business.

Nobody ever said running your own business was easy and the easy route is often the quickest route to failure. Part of the journey is pushing our comfort zones and experimenting to see what works best for our own business. So whatever you do, don’t take the quick-fix identikit approach to your marketing (or even your website) – and hopefully your business will be here for many years to come and bring your the financial success and personal fulfilment you always dreamed of.

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