Build Your Small Business Community With Unique Product And Service Offerings
As a small business owner, it is important to understand what problems your product or service is trying to solve and if what you are doing is differentiated in the marketplace. People won’t come to your business because of the price or the convenience—they come for the story. Building your story and a constantly iterating solution to a problem creates forever customers, which builds a strong community.
#BizHackLive presenter Shana Ostrovitz, executive director of 1909 Business Accelerator, said that building a strong community is the key to building your small business.
“Your selling strategy becomes easy because you’re offering something of value,” Ostrovitz said during her BizHack Live Webinar. “I think that’s when it really dawned on us: We are doing something that people want and are asking to pay for, while on the other side, we were trying to sell something … they were not really grabbing onto.”
To learn how to build a strong small business community, keep reading.
TLDR: 4 Ways to Build Community With Your Small Business
While building a technology solution to support solo entrepreneurs in the service industry, Ostrovitz and her team realized that their customers didn’t care about the technology. They wanted community, connection, and education—and were willing to pay for it. Here’s a quick summary of how to build a business community.
- Tip 1: Back to basics
- Tip 2: Find your niche
- Tip 3: Connect with customers
- Tip 4: Create a community
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Back To Basics
Ostrovitz said business owners should get back to the basics. Even if you are already an established small business owner, it’s good to re-evaluate what you’re doing.
She highlighted a few business cases, a winner and a loser.
Business Case No. 1: Segway
The technology developed for Segway has been used in many other products, and the concept around it has ended up being very successful for other companies. Unfortunately, it wasn’t successful for Segway.
The company was developed by a renowned inventor and entrepreneur who holds more than 100 U.S. patents. He had significant financial backing and spent $100 million developing the product. Even before its launch, the company predicted $1 billion in sales, which would have been a historical record.
But the company didn’t want people to know about the technology they were using to create the product, and they didn’t talk to customers. The company didn’t test or identify the problem they were solving clearly enough to understand the optimal solution.
“Segway moved technology forward for the rest of us, but they were very unsuccessful,” Ostrovitz said. Their strategy lacked the human component of what a business is trying to do, which is to solve problems and offer value to people.
Business Case No. 2: Nike
In the beginning, Nike targeted competitive runners who were aiming to qualify for the Olympics. The founders kept their day jobs for the first 10 years of the company to keep the overhead low, and the first products were developed by a track coach with a deep understanding of his target market. Prototypes were tested on college and elite athletes before being manufactured.
Nike is now a huge company that offers many different products, but it started with a laser focus on solving a specific problem. They were looking for a solution to shave 5 seconds off a runner’s time to help them get to the Olympics.
“Over time, what Nike came to be known as is a brand that represents champions,” Ostrovitz said. “What they are doing is solving the problem of how to be the best at what we do, how to represent that, and what products serve that. Every product that comes out is saying, how do we support champions? They have the same promise now as they did when they started. It’s a completely different mindset from how Segway came to be created.”
Find Your Niche
Now, it’s time to ask yourself some hard questions. What problem are you trying to solve? How do you know that problem is valid? Who has the problem (identify relevant groups)? Who is the most impacted or motivated by this problem? Ostrovitz said the last question is imperative because that audience will be your loyal customer group, the ones who will test your product, service, or solution because they believe in what you’re doing.
Next, you need to identify what alternatives are being used to solve the problem currently. What are the strengths and weaknesses of those alternatives? Many small business owners are trying to solve problems—you just need to figure out how you’re unique and find your niche.
“There is probably someone out there doing what you do, that’s normal,” Ostrovitz said. “What you want to identify is where you are offering something that has never been offered before, in a different way or that supports people in another way.”
Figure out what benefit you can offer that customers really want and then understand what solutions you can offer to provide that benefit.
Runners didn’t want the Nike shoes. They wanted to win. People don’t want a gym. They want to be fit, so they go to the gym as a solution. Understanding the value of solving a customer’s problem is vital.
Connect With Customers
As a business owner, you need to understand your customers’ needs and pain points deeply. Then, ask the right questions to get to know them.
“Always be in the mindset of adding value and solving problems,” Ostrovitz said.
Try this exercise with your customers:
Ask questions: Put your product or service under the bed and learn from people’s habits and experiences.
Validate your hypothesis: Discover the problem that exists and who needs help with that problem.
Solve for value and benefit: Let your customers confirm if you are on the right track or help redirect you to the right solution.
Communicate the big-picture why: The vision, mission, and values. Give customers ownership.
Create a Community
Small business owners can focus on the community that supports them and, in turn, share their knowledge to support, offer value and solve problems for other people. You can do this by building community outside your organization as a mentor, advisory board member, partner, and professional organization member or donor.
“Look into building the community support system that you have for yourself,” Ostrovitz said. “Then, you can deliver on all of those things for your customers at a high level.”Want more tips? On Wednesdays, join BizHack Academy for our FREE#BizHackLive Webinars and hear experts discuss the latest and best small business marketing strategies. For a list of upcoming events, click here.