You have a passion for giftware (or makeup or homewares), a flair for sales and you want to open your own business. You love shopping online and have decided to combine all your interests and open an online store.
Hold on. Aren’t there already a glut of similar stores online, all competing for the same customers and selling similar items? Why will yours be any better, and can you hold your own in a highly competitive and well saturated market?
The key to standing out and attracting sales is having a clear market.
Around three quarters of start-ups fail in the first 3 years and a third last only 6 months. Before beginning any business venture, it’s vital to do your research, and in particular, size up your competition. Use the mistakes and success of others as your textbook, see what else is working or not, and check out pricing structures and service levels.
Replicating what already exists in any business works no better in the online world than it does in the bricks and mortar environment if the market is already saturated and choice is abundant. So if you are offering the same products and services as your competitors, what is it that makes you different? What is it that will make a customer choose you and not your competition?
“People rarely buy what they need. They buy what they want.”
– Seth Godin
You need to offer something unique, better or different to entice customers to choose you.
- Can you discover a niche?
- Can you design a new approach?
- Do you have a specific range that cannot be purchased elsewhere?
- Do you provide second to none customer service and after sales support?
- Will you donate a percentage of profits or donate products to a particular cause or charity that will drive your passion even further?
But there is more to it than that. Can you hone down the reason behind your business?
When you first started your business, it’s unlikely it was purely for money or to sell a product. There would have been a driving motivation behind your decision. It’s all about defining your business. It may have been to help someone or to make a service available to an area that had never been able to access it before. You had a reason for starting your business – your ‘why.’ It’s your ‘why’ that will help you convert lookers into buyers. It gives them the justification to buy what they want.
Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why, says “Value is in the eye of the beholder. It’s something people feel, not something we tell people we offer”.
People will feel the value when they understand that you are emotionally involved in what you are doing. Sinek says “…they’ll actually trust us more, offer their loyalty and endure a measure of personal sacrifice to be a part of what we’re doing. Oh, and by the way, they’ll likely be willing to pay a premium for that sense of trust and connection”.
When you define your business, it’s important that you think of what you are doing and who you are doing it for, however it’s even more important to think of why you are doing it at all. These are the key messages you need to weave into your decision making and planning processes as well as into every piece of marketing and communication material you create. These are the messages that will make your business unique in the marketplace, and attract the customers you really want to work with.
“To be successful, you have to have your heart in your business, and your business in your heart.
– Thomas Watson, Sr.