It takes more than capital, charisma and good looks to stay in business today. With new startups emerging every minute, staying up to date amidst the countless other challenges can be daunting. Tack onto that the probability of business success -- that only 51 percent survive the first five years -- and it’s easy to understand why job pressure is the number one cause of stress in the US, according to StatisticBrain.com.
To get and stay in front of the competition, you need to do more than just offer something different. After all, anybody (well, many) can come up with a new widget to sell. The real trick lies in communicating just how valuable that widget is and why consumers don’t have to decide “yes or no,” but rather “when?” Your product or service shouldn’t be a band-aid treatment only to be replaced by others. It should be a surgery that fixes everything (think MySpace vs. Facebook).
To help cajole your entrepreneurial intent, here are five value differentiators to keep your business alive and thriving:
1. Serve a purpose. If you’re thinking about how much money you can make or how great your business will be for you, think again. Timeless businesses serve a social purpose -- they diagnose treatment for a societal need rather than offer a temporary fix. Corporate social responsibility is just as important -- if not more -- than the service being offered.
2. Keep exploring. Sir Richard Branson’s primary purpose, according to his blog, is to make a difference in the world and to do so through perpetual learning. The airline entrepreneur believes that “voyage teaches us to venture beyond the horizon to connect with and learn from others -- something we have always tried to do at Virgin and beyond."
3. Be social. While it may feel natural not to share your new niche idea with others for fear of it being replicated, I asked entrepreneur Elaine Love of PrintPlace.com and author of Emotional Ice Water her take on sharing ideas and what sort of advice she would offer a wannabe entrepreneur. Here’s what she had to say:
On sharing ideas: Talk to people. Conduct Interviews. I always ask [consumers] three questions once I narrow down my area of focus:
- What do your really like about what you have now?
- What do you not like about your current product or service?
- What would you like to have that you don't have now and what would it be worth to you to add that additional service? (Either they will pay more or adding that service will increase your market share).
On advice for prospective entrepreneurs:
- Find something you are passionate about.
- Find an unfilled niche or a niche market your idea will significantly improve.
- Find or create a need people want, need and will pay to receive.
4. Get feedback. What gets measured gets improved, which is why website analytics are key drivers for decision-making. Social analytic apps such as Buffer, Tweriod or FollowerWonk can help guide your online presence and align it with your business values. Outside of the analytics world, check online forums such as Angie’s List or Yelp to see what customers are saying. Better yet, see what is being said about the competition and then brand yourself accordingly.
5. Write a book. No seriously, write a book. Having the title of “author” next to your name affords instant credibility with not only the product or service being offered, but also as a public speaker (and there’s a lot of money to be made as a public speaker). If you worry about the whole traditional publishing vs. self publishing question and whether the former determines credibility or not, when was the last time you searched for a book on Amazon to see who the publisher was? Exactly.
Instantly jumping into the “produce-and-profit” mode of thinking may seem appealing and sexy, but sometimes it’s better to build up to that mindset through a “sense-and-respond” approach that allows you to “decide and deliver.” Do it right the first time, and everything else falls in place.
Related: Does Your Startup Have a Strategy?