As small business owners, we often feel like we are small fish in big ponds. We don’t have the budget, reach, database, personnel, and marketing departments necessary to compete with the conglomerates and giants within our segments. It can sometimes feel like an uphill battle staying relevant and finding a voice within your field when opposing the multi-million dollar corporations that generate all of the attention. Truth is, though, being small has its advantages.
In 2015, it takes a lot for a large corporation to be considered “great” in the customer’s eyes. But it is possible for a small business to be considered “one of the greats”, which is a more powerful designation. To be considered “one of the greats”, though, you must Become Your Own Industry.
What does it mean to Become Your Own Industry? It means being fully recognizable by people researching that topic. By being a contributor, a participator, and an omnipresent expert on your subject matter. And to do that, it only takes time and energy. But any small business can do it.
Here are 5 Steps to Becoming Your Own Industry
1) Promote Personality over Policy
Large organizations can put amazing processes and policies in place to control every aspect of their business, from customer acquisition, to inventory management, to website maintenance, and beyond. The benefit an individual operating a small business has is the ability to be human; to be a personality. To humanize their business. And you must share your unique, individual personality with the masses. People connect with people before they connect with products. The more you highlight yourself, the more you will endear yourself to the consumer and your peers (unless, for some reason, you’re completely unlikeable). People will assign your personality to that of your entire company, and you can become synonymous with that topic of which you speak.
2) Develop Digital Assets
I have been extremely fortunate to be recognized as a voice and leader within my industry. It is good to be the headliner, even within a niche segment of an industry such as process improvement and automotive retail. But I wasn’t always. The content, and most specifically, the comedic videos I’ve made about my industry, have been able to build my name into a brand within the automotive community. Whether they truly know me or not as a person, I’m recognized as a noteworthy “personality” and “talking head”. From endless blogs featuring best practices and rants, to tweets/posts/published articles/pics, to videos, I create content that is easily consumable to people within my industry. Look in your pocket or on your desk. You have a high-powered video camera in your phone. There is nothing stopping you from picking it up and filming yourself as you speak about your opinions regarding your industry. It requires some moxy. It requires you NOT to sell.
Don’t talk about your company. Talk about what is right and what is wrong within your industry. Others will feel the same way you do, and align themselves with you. (From my personal experience, I will say that the more comedic you can make your material, the more it will be absorbed by the masses). Focus on video. With video, people can hear you, see you, relate to you, and like you. Video allows your personality to gain traction throughout all channels of your business. The quality of the content, and the concept of your videos and blogs will far outweigh the production value. Video allows your personality to gain traction throughout all channels of your business.
Again, you don’t have the budget to compete with the big boys out there, so staying lean and flexible with free tech such as email marketing, video, and social will assist. If you want to compete for online traction on the search engines, you could expand your funding options by looking into a small business loan provider (Kabbage.com as an example) who can provide loans from $2k and up, to help extend your digital footprint. If you desire to stay low-cost in your marketing efforts, you have to adopt some of these guerrilla tactics.
3) Develop Dialogues over Monologues
Social media has given everyone a megaphone. People shout about themselves from the rooftops looking for attention. They yell about their beliefs from the pulpits that are their computer monitors. People don’t want to be spoken at, they want to be spoken to. Find online discussions about your chosen subject matter and join the conversation. Be a voice that shares ideas, and comments on others’ ideas. When you begin developing relationships with others and they can feel your passion and expertise, they will identify you as either a like soul, or a worthy authority on the subject.
4) Be Original
As a small business, you are not beholden to any policies regarding how you market, or what your message is. The more you share your opinions from a customers’ viewpoint rather than an owner/operator, the more you will see inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement. Being humble, original, and truthful as to what you can and can’t do go a long way to being believable. It will determine who your fans are, and whether or not they will seek your content out to stay enlightened.
5) Fans > Followers
Anyone can get followers. You can elicit every tactic in the social media and blogging handbook to get Likes, Clicks, and Follows. Those don’t grow your business, though. It is when your content, your personality, your beliefs, and your willingness to do social good with information develops you Fans that you have succeeded. Followers are a dime a dozen. They can be bought. Having Fans, though, shows loyalty. It proves your worthy of being listened to and deserved of attention. Being likeable and creating likeable content is necessary to having fans, across all channels. How many people can mention your name and speak highly of you, rather than just speaking of you. That’s the difference between Fans and Followers.
Becoming Your Own Industry doesn’t happen overnight. Not with any lasting success anyway. It requires consistency of message, proving your worth, listening even more than talking, and being yourself. This isn’t about telling people what they already know or what they want to hear. It is about creatively making yourself synonymous with the topic by putting out truthful, viral, engaging content. To do it right, you must care more about the audience listening than the result of the posting.
[blockquote name=”Joe Webb” organization=”@zonewebb”]Be better than what people expect you to be. Be better than what you want yourself to be.[/blockquote]
Be better than what people expect you to be. Be better than what you want yourself to be. If you do this, and aren’t shy about putting yourself out there on blogs, social media, and video, you’ll develop a fan base. You’ll garner attention. You’ll be known for being a shining beacon among the darkness of your industry. It doesn’t take a team. And when that happens, and your business’ profitability catches up with your reputation, then you will have Become an Industry.