Trends have always been an issue that grabs attention. If a columnist in a national newspaper is stuck for something to write about, here come 2,000 words on what the latest trend says about us. If you go on a major social network, you’ll see a list of “what people like you are talking about right now!”. It has got to a point where being part of a trend is a goal in itself, which may not be a direction we want to travel in.
Photograph by Jo Johnston
The business world is not immune from the trend for trends. If you attend enough business meetings, you’ll hear plenty of people talking about them. “[Business name here] is so hot right now. What can we do to be like them?”. And you’d think business professionals would know better. If you set out to be like your competitor, all you will ever be is an imitation of them. And why would people want a clone of something that exists?
Of course, you want your business to be talked about. Becoming a trend is a good thing, but chasing the trend is not. Mainly, you want to set the trend, not let the trend set you. So rather than thinking “How can we be like our successful competitor,” the real question needs to be different. It needs to be “How can we be better than them? How can we make them want to be like us?”
Whether you’re a one-person business or running a small-to-medium sized one, one thing is vital. You need to have a clear identity. If you’re defining yourself by relation to someone else, you’re already letting them define you. What do you do really well? Get that to the centre of your business, and make it a focus of your branding. Always keep brand compliance in mind – when you implement a culture of excellence in your business, it’s easier to maintain results.
Always Be Improving
While you want to throw a spotlight on the parts of your business that are visibly excellent, don’t forget the parts you can improve. The things you’re a genius at are your hook. But once you have customers on the hook, you need to keep them. They’re not going to stay around if you’ve poured every resource into one thing.
This involves picking the right people to implement strategies. You need to empower them to do just that, and stand back. Micromanaging is the worst thing you can do.
Be Aware Of Opportunities
While you don’t want to define yourself by your competition, you do want to take advantage of their errors. And all businesses make them. So if one of your competitors makes one that gets attention, strike while the iron is hot. Take the opportunity to highlight how you haven’t made that mistake, and will be happy to provide for disappointed customers.
Things trend because they stand out. Whether you are standing out because of your excellent customer service or great products, push that towards the light. People aren’t going to come to you because you’re like another company. They’re going to seek you out because you’re different. Take every opportunity to show how.