These days the barrier to entry on starting your own business is very low.
What used to be the pipe dreams of the past while you daydream at your desk can become your living with a bit of tech know-how and a lot of determination!
The downfall to that is that it means that there is a ton of competition in each field.
I’ve watched how much the photography industry has changed since I started my business in 2005 and it’s a completely different game than it was 15 years ago.
But even with a ton of competition, you can still stand out and get the clients you love and who love you. It just takes some smarts.
1 ) Don’t rely on social media alone to be seen.
Social media is a great tool to have in your business toolbox. But it’s one that has some major downfalls. First, there is a lot of competing noise that will draw your audience’s attention away from your message.
Use social media, but use it as a way to connect deeper with your audience and then offer them a way to connect with you outside of the app. Namely through a free offer that they can get when they sign up to your email list.
Social media is rented property. Since ou don’t own the ability to connect with your followers there (Zuckerburg does) you want to give value that is enticing enough for them to trade their email for.
2) Create Content Consistently.
There are many options on how to create content these days. Blogging, video, podcasts, live videos, etc. Content creation is king and choosing what type of content that works for you and your audience is key.
Look into where your audience hangs out, how they like to learn and meet them there. But make sure you enjoy creating content in this way, as you will be doing it weekly. You need to enjoy the process otherwise, you won’t’ get it done.
Let’s take blogging as an example (since this is a blog you are reading!
Blogging is one of those things that is either loved or hated. But you can’t overlook the value of blogging in a world where all clients want to be informed. Blogging shows that you know what you are talking about and gives the client enough info to know if they trust you or not. If you gain their trust, you are one step closer to gaining their business.
The underlying big value to blogging and all other content creations is SEO. SEO, or search engine optimization, is Google indexing and ranking your website to organically be seen by the billions of searches on Google that happen daily.
With blogging, you create content once, and as time goes on, a good blog article can bring you business for years to come.
3) Network. In-Person.
*at the time of this update, we are living through a pandemic where the world has shut down to keep us safe. Obviously networking in person can’t happen at the moment, but it should be on your radar when it’s safe again*
Networking with the industry you are in is invaluable. People value relationships and will market for you if they love you and what you do. As a wedding photographer, I grew my business year after year from other wedding vendors and more specifically other wedding photographers. Just because someone has the same business as you, doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be in your network. It means they absolutely should. As if that person can’t do the job that comes in, they are going to want to give the client referral. And don’t you want to be at the tip of their tongue?
Look at Facebook for networking groups that are in your industry to start. Look for your local Rising Tide Chapter or join BNI. The important thing is to find a group that you can meet people in person and create an actual relationship. That face to face connection is ever more important in our increasingly digital world!
4) Client Experience.
With everyone out there being a small business, your clients have more options than ever to get their needs taken care of.
The best way to be one that clients not only come back to again and again but also your clients will be raving fans for you is to create a fabulous client experience.
Under-promise and over-deliver.
Send handwritten notes or special gifts if they are a big enough client for you. Make a personal connection so that they are invested in you as much as you are invested in them! Do this alone and your business will grow!
5) Listen and Grease that Squeaky Wheel.
We all hate to admit that sometimes we drop the ball.
Sometimes we under promise and under deliver and you now have a less than stoked client on your hands. Before you get up in arms about how they have wronged you, always take a deep breath and realize that you are in business to help people and to make money.
And at this point, you haven’t helped in the way that the squeaky wheel was expecting and if they decide to be loud about their unhappiness, it can easily affect your money coming in.
So, when you know you haven’t done everything that you can to make the client happy, then give more and bend over backward to fix the problem. Or better yet, address the problem before they have a chance to tell you they weren’t happy.
It’s all about putting ourselves it in their shoes and seeing the interaction from their point of view. Then making it sparkle as much as we can!
6) Offer a Guarantee.
This is a psychological trick to take away that fear of buyers remorse.
If they know they can return the product or have 24 hours to back out of their contract after signing, or a guarantee that they will be happy with your service, then they will be more likely to buy from you.
Many small businesses are scared of offering guarantees, but as long as you do #4 and #5, the likeliness of needing to ever refund will be low!
BONUS 7: Have Quality Images that Impress.
One of the ways to make sure people stop and stay on your website when they find you is to make it visually appealing. You have less than 3 seconds to get their attention and make them want more. Does your website do that or does it leave people feeling like they are looking at a dated or amateur site? You want to impress people, and there is a reason why big corporations pay an amazing amount of money to have images that make you stop in your tracks. So up your business game and hire a professional photographer to create a custom set of images that tell just what your brand wants to say! You can see more by checking out the brand photography options here.
Well, that’s it. My 6 ways to make your small business stand out from the crowd.
Please share this with a colleague!
*this article was updated May 2020.*