The next marketing plan is YOU

I was on my way to work one morning when I saw this long line of thatch vendors next to the street and it struck me, “How do these guys all manage to sell the same product, on the same stretch of road?” Obviously there are some unwritten African business rules which allows for every “enterprise” to make a living. Maybe they take turns in marketing a specific stand and in that way everyone gets a chance to sell some thatch. Or maybe it’s about who shouts the loudest? Or who has the lowest price or the most stock?


The thing is, the scene of the 10 or 15 thatch businesses selling the same thing in the same street is the exact state of our current South Africa SME environment, magnified. Let’s use a plumber as an example. What makes him different from his nearest competitor? Is it price? Is it branding? Is it service? Is it the personal touch? You see we live in an era where every possible idea for a business has been thought of. There’s nothing new. There are very few new business ideas. Everything any of us need, can be found on Google, can be delivered to your door and all at a reasonable price. The problem is exacerbated when everyone has the best brand, the best service and the best price. No one stands out from the crowd because the crowd is filled with other well-informed, digitally enhanced business owners. Every business knows about the importance of branding, digital marketing, innovation and service. Every business knows that the price is important in a recessive economy and every business knows that relationship building is the key to retaining customers. And if every business knows all the same stuff, every business is just part of the crowd shouting at a very overwhelmed customer.


So how do you stand out from the crowd? I think it starts with you, the business owner.


What makes you different? What are your personality traits? What talents and gifts do you possess? I think that a small to medium size enterprise has an enormous marketing resource in its owner. After all it’s the guy/girl who started the business. It’s the person who dreamt of the business and had the courage to start it. Is has the owner’s fingerprints all over it. Why not use what you have as the owner to make the difference? Let me explain. If you love people and love socialising, why not have monthly social events where you invite prospective customers to enjoy a braai with you and your staff? If you love writing, why don’t you write articles about your product or industry and get them published? If you love fishing, why don’t you invite a couple of customers for a monthly fishing event? The list of things you could come up with is endless if you start thinking creatively about how you, the owner, could be representing the business. All it takes is to sit down and make a list of all the things that make you unique. Write down your hobbies, your interests, your personality traits and what you’re good at. Ask people close to you what they think makes you unique. Once you have a list it takes a bit of creative thinking to come up with a couple of ideas that could change the course of your business forever. We all are unique and the trick is to know what makes you unique.


Once you find the uniqueness, you have found the ingredient that will make you stand out from the rest of the crowd. Worried about people copying you? You’ll find that if you stop thinking about being the best at branding, message, price and service (and they’re all important) and start thinking about changing your marketing message to reflect your unique personality, gifts and talents; you will never have to worry another day about being the best at something. You’ll be the best by default, because there’s no one like you and therefore no business like yours. Alliances and partnerships with competitors become an option because no one has to feel threatened with another competitor. Every business has its unique capabilities and personality and appeals to a different portion of the market. Everyone has their rightful place in the market and gone is the ugly and demeaning competitive environment that exists between opposition businesses.


I like to think that the current state of the economy always dictates what we as business owners should be doing. If everyone has done everything they can around branding, marketing, service and price, what else could we do to stand out from the crowd? I think being unique is the only answer. Businesses have become devoid of personality and warmth and I think your personality reflected through the marketing message is what will make your business stand out in future. Your business needs to be unique and the only guaranteed and unmatchable uniqueness in your business is YOU. Use it and become the only thatch seller on the street.