5 Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself to Help Differentiate Your Small Business

kitchen nightmaresCassie, my beautiful wife, loves cooking shows and lately we’ve been watching one called “Kitchen Nightmares.” The show can be absolutely painful to watch as the host, Chef Gordon Ramsay, is invited into small, local restaurants to help them improve their businesses and he exuberantly shreds apart the owners of the establishment. Ramsey is ruthless, but more often than not, he right about the poor standards and lack of business savvy that he is consulting about.

I watched an episode last night where he transformed a quaint little bistro in to a cafe rich in “local” flavors. In one night, Ramsey helped the restaurant significantly differentiate itself from other local businesses and built a brand that held deep meaning for the local residents. It is lesson that any small business should think carefully about.

What Ramsey did is something that we talk about in marketing all the time. Businesses have to find meaningful ways to differentiate and simultaneously develop a relevant brand built upon their differentiation.

Take Zappos as an example. You can go to almost any local strip mall and buy shoes from an assortment of lookalike shoe stores. Same shoes, same styles, same brands. Who cares. It’s all about who’s the cheapest while maintaining some relevance by carrying decent styles. Zappos does things differently. They carry almost any shoe you would want but they charge a premium. Here’s how they justify the premium pricing. They offer the world’s best customer service. If you don’t believe me, check out their website (zappos.com) or give them a call. Try them out.

Right now, everyone is in a race for the bottom. Price seems like the sole focus of so many retailers out there, regardless of the industry. Amazon is in a price war with Walmart’s. Walmart is attacking Apple’s online music store. Apple and Amazon are slated to fight it out over ebook pricing. It’s all about price. But does it have to be this way?

The answer is simple – No. It is entirely possible to differentiate your small business and ask for a reasonable higher price. Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • What are you passionate about?
  • What can you be the best at?
  • What is the one, simple thing that you could be doing to be remarkable?
  • What story do you want to tell your customers?
  • What stories do you want them telling their friends, family and coworkers?

Next week, we will take a closer look at each one of these questions and how they pertain to differentiating your business.


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