The Ultimate Small Business Differentiator

Sometimes, there is a lot more marketing wisdom in a hole-in-the-wall shop than at all the highfalutin corporates and agencies out there.

Case in point: the little bookshop called Bücherecke in the town where I live, Waidhofen an der Ybbs, Austria.

Around the corner from Bücherecke. Photo Credit: Janos Korom / Fickr

Around the corner from Bücherecke. Photo Credit: Janos Korom / Fickr

It is squeezed in the confines of a building made in the middle ages, and the selection of books is limited by that enormously. Also, the price of books in Austria is very tightly regulated by law, so the shop cannot compete on price. Bücherecke is very successful, though.

Why would a bookshop with a tiny selection and the same prices as everywhere else be successful?

People around town don’t talk about going to “Bücherecke,” they go to to “Günther.” The owner of the shop greets everyone who walks in with a handsome smile. He knows most of us by name. He also provides spot-on recommendations, because he knows what his customers like. He’s a human version of the recommendations that Amazon provides. But Günther has a big advantage: he’s an actual human.

Hair salons are another good example. Why are customers so loyal? It usually comes down to the person who is your stylist. Customers follow their stylists to other salons. There is no mystery to this. You usually stick with one stylist because you like her or him.

To a great extent, we choose the people we do business with the same way we choose our friends.

I don’t catalogue my friends based on their unique selling propositions. I spend time with them because I like them; I know them; I trust them.

The ultimate small business differentiator is you. Your unique personality.

When I’m with my friends, I talk about whatever interests both of us.

I could spend hours talking to Ashley about American politics. Samantha and I veer between marketing and, well, everything else. Benjamin and I geek out over Britney Spears. With Manuela, the topic never strays all too far from our next hike. Rudi and I always find our way back to Austrian politics and trains. Ah, trains. I’m almost always looking for an opening to talk about trains. Achim and I talk about nearly everything, except Britney Spears. He’s not so into her. But even perfect husbands need a flaw somewhere.

Of course, that’s just scratching the surface. Friendships are about making a deep connections with the other person. They are only possible when you reveal who you are and open up about your feelings and needs.

But how do you do that when you are automating your marketing? How do you balance being open with maintaining your credibility?

I’m not saying that you need to be best friends with all your clients or reveal every detail of your life.

What I am saying, though, is that you need to be true to yourself. When you add yourself and your personality to your marketing, it allows people to make a connection with you. Those human details are the things people will remember you for. Yes, they’ll have a vague-but-certain feeling about your qualifications and your ability to do the job. When it comes time to choose you or a competitor, though, they’ll think of you.

If you choose to work with me knowing I’m the American-in-Austria, daily-hiking, married-to-a-man, Britney Spears-listening, New Yorker-reading, train-riding business automation consultant… Then at least I know you know what you’re getting. And since I’ve written this book and send daily emails, I know that you understand my philosophy and my values and share them.

Shared values are much more powerful than impressive-sounding qualifications.

You communicate your values not by talking in abstractions or trying to impress people, but by living them and doing what comes naturally to you.

So why-oh-why do people hide themselves behind being “professional?”

Part of it is that we are cultured to please others. We’re taught by society, at the latest by our peers in high school, that being different is a vulnerability. Being open exposes our differences and opens up points of attack. Inclusion is a fundamental human need. We meet that need on some level by blending in. On a deeper level, though, the people who love you help you meet your need for inclusion while also helping you meet your need for autonomy.

The other reason so much small business marketing stays in the boring, ineffective, “professional” realm is that small business owners don’t know any better or haven’t thought about it intentionally. They see everyone else out there doing “professional” marketing, and assume that’s the way to go.

Well, now you know better.

My closing thought on this topic comes from Megan Macedo’s “Rules of Self-Disclosure.” It’s rule #8

“Life is a relationship. The quality of your relationships determines the quality of your business and the quality of your life.”

At it’s core, that’s what makes my 5 High ROI Marketing Projects so valuable to your business. They are about building those quality relationships.

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