“Be yourself, everyone else is already taken”

Oscar Wilde wasn’t talking about small business personalities when he wrote that, but he could have been.

I see many small business owners and micro-entrepreneurs starting out by looking at their competitors and trying to do the same things that they do – in exactly the same way. Occasionally, they try to stand out by undercutting the others a little on price. BIG mistake!

Competitive advantage is not all about price

You probably have direct competitors, but no one does what you do in exactly the same way that you do it. There are so many different ways that you can stand out from the crowd, and it doesn’t have to be based on how much you charge.

Just think about it – you probably have a favourite pub, chip shop, pizza restaurant or coffee shop. Do you keep going back mainly because it’s cheaper? I know that my favourites are definitely not the cheapest.

Here are a few reasons that people might keep returning to you instead of your competitors:

  • Location
  • Ambiance
  • Staff friendliness or helpfulness
  • Expert knowledge
  • Range of services/products
  • They like you
  • Discretion
  • Reputation
  • Range/comfort of facilities
  • Quality of products/services
  • Community or charitable impact
  • Level of customer service
  • ….and lots more…

Think about the businesses that you like to use – it’s probable that one (or more) of the above is a reason that you keep using them, and none of them are about price.

You can’t ‘invent’ a business personality – but you can encourage it along

Creating a brand and business personality must be a natural process – you can’t just invent it, although it can grow from who you are.

I’ve met small business owners who decide that they want their small business personalities to change overnight, but it doesn’t work because they’re trying to fake it. Too many small businesses pretend to be bigger, older, or more corporate than they are, but people can see through it.

For example, it’s very hard to flip from being a normal, serious, type of accountant into a fun and joyful one. The likelihood is that you and your team are not those types of people (or you’d already be heading down that road), and also you probably have years of doing things a certain way to overcome. It’s just not a natural change.

However, if you’re naturally the fun and friendly type, and have previously struggled to fit into the expected professional and reserved mould of accounting, then you can make the change much more easily.

Your customers love you for who you are (not who you pretend to be)

The thing is, even if you have been ‘faking it’; your best customers probably haven’t been fooled by you.

Human beings are very astute. We’re great at spotting things that don’t really line up as a result of the way that we’ve had to evolve. This means that there’s really no point in trying to be something you’re not – everyone can tell!

Your best customers are liable to be those who see past the facade, and genuinely enjoy the way that you really are. This tells you that you have nothing to lose by bringing more of you into your business personality.

You’re great – embrace your strengths and idiosyncrasies and use them to your advantage

If you’re scared by this idea, think of this – you’re already doing well. If you weren’t, you wouldn’t still be in business.

You have nothing to lose, but everything to gain, by finding your real business personality and letting it out.

If that idea makes you anxious, try a test first. Do one thing that’s a little more ‘you’ and see what the response is. This could be a change to your place of work or where you meet your customers. It might be in the way you answer your phone, or the content that you share on your social channels. Another really easy thing to test is your email newsletter.

You are great the way that you are. Embrace your strengths and idiosyncrasies, and let them guide you to creating a REAL personality for your small business. The only rule is to emphasise the good bits, and work to minimise your weaknesses – but that’s not hard when the good bits are coming to the fore.

How do you use your business’s personality to your advantage? Let us know in the comments below.