Leading Your Business With Style

Looking Into Professional Website Design

Website Design
 

Leading people is one of the most challenging, yet profitable areas of growing your business. And a well designed website is the mark of a professional business.

Do you know the features that people look for in a business website? You can be sure that professional hosting and web design are qualities that even the most inexperienced web user can spot in an instant.

Leading The Pack

People who visit your business online now expect the best from your web presence. This is because people have gotten used to a very high standard of quality in the past few years. Advances in web design technology have enabled site builders to establish true works of digital art.

If you don’t have the expertise in leading your online presence, now is an excellent time for you to hire the services of a professional website designer in order to build your own home on the web.

Growing Your Business Online

No business can afford to do without a professional e-commerce website because a professional e-commerce website is no longer a luxury.

In the space of a very few short years, it has become an absolute necessity.

If you’re going to do business on the world wide web, you’ll need a headquarters to do it from. Once you have established your official site, you’ll need to install a web store from which to sell goods directly to the public. Without this essential e-commerce software in place, your website won’t be taken seriously as the home of a credible business.

Leading With Design

The design of your website is far more important than you might think. Perception is reality with many people. If you don’t have a website that is equipped with all of the latest bells and whistles, you can’t expect to engage the attention of a mass audience.

To avoid being overlooked, you need to adapt. The design of your website needs to be as attractive and modern as possible. Beyond the mere design, it also needs to be easy to load on every possible browser and easy for a visitor to navigate once they get there. Finally, it needs to be equipped with e-commerce features that enable them to use their credit card or Paypal account in order to purchase goods from your site.

Building the Right Team

If you want to build a great team, you need to cover all of your bases. So what should you look for in a web hosting service?

It’s never a good idea to sign on the dotted line for a service package that you don’t fully understand the contents of. There are a number of important qualities that you should look for in a web hosting services provider.

To begin with, you should make sure that all of the services and perks that your provider described to you in conversation are included in writing in the actual agreement.

Don’t sign a contract based on any promises you may have received orally.

If it isn’t set in stone in the contract you sign, your provider is under no obligation to actually deliver on anything you discussed.

Inspect What You Expect

You’ll also need to make sure that you can receive 24/7 customer service from your provider. This is an extremely important component of any deal. Armed with a solid contract, you can put up your site on the web and proceed to business. A good deal is the prelude to a profitable future.

**********
Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Image Sources: seomavericks.com

On Leadership and Hiring

Why Leaders Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Push Past Surface-Level Interview Questions

Interview Questions
 

If you’ve been in a leadership position for more than a couple of years, you’ve likely interviewed dozens of job candidates.

You know all the textbook tactics, and you’ve seen every character imaginable — from the guy wearing an Armani suit and too much cologne to the recent college graduate nervously shaking in her boots.

But you’re also smart enough to know that it’s all an act.

Performing Arts

Don’t kid yourself; you’re interviewing actors and actresses. Some candidates could win Academy Awards, while others would struggle to make the cast of a low-budget horror flick. But whether the candidate is Meryl Streep or an extra on a laundry detergent commercial, you’re interacting with a façade.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve fallen for the act in the past. Remember when you were excited about the candidate who knocked the interview out of the park, only to find out that she was a dud a month later?

So to guard yourself against this mistake, you try to be shrewder than the interviewee. You ask her sly behavioral questions, have her come in for multiple interviews, and make her take a series of tests. But unfortunately, no amount of testing will reveal the real person, especially in the artificial environment of an interview. You can’t really know whether the candidate will be a self-starting, knowledge-hungry superstar or a clock-watching D-list player until you give her the job.

So what should you do? In short, there is no easy answer. But when it comes down to it, the first step is revamping your interview process.

The Interview

Tactic You Need to Employ Right Now

What if the interview became a personal conversation instead of a casting call? What if the primary focus was on the person, not the résumé?

I’ve found a way to make this happen. I call it the “personal letter interview.” My company has been using it for four months now, and the people we’ve hired have been outstanding. Time will give us more data, but I’m convinced we’re on the right path.

Here’s how it works:

  • If you have a qualified job candidate you’d like to interview, ask her to write a letter to a loved one — a child, spouse, parent, or friend.
  • Ask her to describe both what she is proud of and what she regrets, and prompt her to tell you how she feels about where she is today.
  • Finally, have her conclude with how she envisions her future.

Keep your instructions loose; the letter can be to anyone and about anything.

Move Beyond the Surface Level

This is when the mask comes off, so be ready for some tearjerkers. The first candidate who submitted a letter to me talked about the impact of his newborn baby on his life. Another talked about how she was still hurting from a breakup 10 months after the fact.

But this process is about more than a few tears; it’s about opening the door to a deeper conversation by responding to something personal in a caring, compassionate way. And even if the letter you receive is more matter-of-fact, you’re still chipping away at the façade.

As a result, the interview becomes more of an exploration into how the person truly feels about her life, career, hopes, and dreams — and less of an exploration into her sales numbers. That’s not to say experience is unimportant, but the candidate’s experience is in her résumé.

You wouldn’t be interviewing her if you didn’t think she could do the job.

She has already met your initial screening criteria, so you might as well spend more time getting to know her personally.

Be Smart!

Still, there are a few questions that are “off the table,” so to speak. You have to guard against veering into legally unacceptable areas — anything that involves gender, nationality, social club memberships, age, or family status. That’s not what you’re after, and you can still have a meaningful conversation without diving into those subjects.

If your current process is consistently churning out less-than-stellar hires, consider the personal letter interview. You’ll feel more confident that you really know the person you are hiring, and that will positively impact your company in the long run.

And at the end of the day, I’ll take the hard working, sharp, and determined person with a high level of honesty over 20 years of experience.

**********
Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Bob La Loggia

Bob La Loggia is the founder and CEO of AppointmentPlus, a fast-growing SaaS business based in Scottsdale, Arizona. His company has won a number of awards, including CareerBuilder’s Best Places to Work award. Bob is a serial entrepreneur who’s passionate about his business and helping Arizona develop a world-class startup ecosystem.

Image Source: yessalesrecruitment.co.uk

How to Become an Industry Leader

Tips for Increasing Your Online Exposure

Business Online Presence
 

It’s hard to get ahead with today’s tough competition. To position yourself as an industry leader, you need a solid online presence to prove that you’re knowledgeable.

Here are some ways to increase your exposure and earn your place as an authority figure in your field.

Get a Well-Rounded Education

If you don’t already have a college degree, consider earning a bachelor’s degree in a field that interests you. If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you might go a step further and work toward a master’s degree. However, don’t worry if a formal education isn’t in the cards. There are many options to further educate yourself using online resources.

For example, you can create accounts with popular websites such as Udemy, Coursera, and Udacity and take courses on almost any subject. Many courses are free, while some charge a fee. Instructors from reputable universities such as Columbia, MIT, and Harvard often teach the courses, lending credibility to your transcript and broadening your knowledge base.

Join an Industry Organization

Professional organizations are great resources for networking, education, and publicity. Membership often provides access to publications, webinars, conferences, and directories. Use the organization to stay on top of best practices, key influencers, business trends, and tools to advance your career.

One key benefit of joining a professional organization is the networking potential.

Local chapters often sponsor social events to unite members who live in the same city. There are usually national events for all chapters to meet and attend workshops. Local and national events are great places to network with other industry leaders and gain useful information on current industry trends.

Start a Professional Blog

Though many skeptics believe blogging is dead, a professional blog is a fantastic marketing tool. Your blog is a forum for you to provide industry insights, suggest tips for making the industry better, recommend products and educational tools to others in your field and offer a unique voice that sets you apart from your competition.

Your blog isn’t just about writing articles, however. If you have any professional accomplishments, such as certifications or publications, list them all on your website and provide corresponding links as proof. Also, add a contact page so interested clients, peers, and other business professionals can easily contact you.

Guest Write for Other Websites

Once you establish your blog, consider branching out and writing for other industry-related websites. You typically won’t get paid as a guest writer, but you usually get a byline at the end of your articles with links pointing to your website.

The byline allows you to leverage other blogger audiences and attract more readers to your site. Plus, you can reference anything you publish on your website’s publication list.

Guest writing is an easy way to get your name out and connect with other leaders.

The more you expose yourself and share your knowledge with the online community, the more you’ll stake your claim as an authority figure and establish yourself as a key influencer within your industry.

Publicize Praise From Your Biggest Fans

As your following grows, you’ll receive comments and emails from loyal followers, fellow employees and aspiring professionals. Make sure the positive feedback you receive is clearly visible on your site. You might include a testimonials page, add a sidebar with client feedback, or insert quote graphics on your biography page. By highlighting these testimonials, you lend credibility to your brand.

If you’re a business owner, be aware of online reviews from employees and clients. They can work to your advantage—or disadvantage—depending on the website’s purpose.

As an example, Fisher Investments reviews from employees can lend insight for possible hiring new candidates. ConsumerAffairs is another type of review site specifically for a corporations and whether they work in their client’s best interest or not. .

Present Yourself Confidently

Above all, hold your head up high and offer a firm handshake whenever you introduce yourself. You are your best marketing tool, and sharing your expertise is a positive when appropriate.

Create a strong online presence and share your industry knowledge on a variety of industry-related websites. Confidently help others in your field, and you’ll soon be viewed as an industry leader and expert.

**********
Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

5 Professional Development Opportunities Businesses Should Offer

 

Professional Development

Offering useful and meaningful professional development opportunities to your staff members is one of the keys to a more effective company.

Investing in professional development may help your company avoid costly mistakes and keep your best employees motivated and increase their knowledge.

This way, it may be more likely that you’ll retain your best workers and spend less in hiring and training new staff.

5 Professional Development Tools

Here are five ways you can offer professional development choices to your staff members.

1) Collaborative Workshops

One way to help keep your employees’ skills sharp and their engagement level high is with a collaborative workshop approach to professional development. Rather than bringing in an expert to lecture for employee training sessions, try implementing a more interactive approach that allows your staff to build their skills through team sharing activities.

You can utilize your resources by helping your company’s different departments share expertise with topics like computer technology, management strategies, customer service skills, and more. You can also help foster community within the workplace by using this method.

2) Leadership Development

Next, be on the lookout for budding leaders who show promising skills that could benefit your organization’s corporate structure. Spending time on developing leaders within your company is a great way to build up your team’s supervisory skills and their own expertise in the job.

You can also look to your own backyard when recruiting for new managers instead of hiring from outside sources. Many companies find that staff members with credentials from top graduate programs, like the University of Maryland business school, demonstrate many of these leadership qualities.

3) Intern Mentoring

Another way to help get more out of your employees is with an internship program. You can partner with a university in your community, like UAB Online, and help find qualified interns who may be able to be recruited as new hires for the future.

Additionally, you can help your current staff take on new leadership duties by tapping them as intern mentors for the new class of students.

4) Online Coursework

Strong businesses also look to online coursework opportunities for employee professional development. There are many ways to bring online coursework to your staff, or you can simply encourage career growth by sharing graduate and other online classes through email or a staff bulletin board.

Some companies partner with local colleges and create low-cost courses of study that allow employees to develop new skills on the job.

5) Growth Incentives

The last method of offering professional development to your workers is through an incentive program. The most popular incentive you could give your employees for professional development is tuition reimbursement. Some companies allow workers to take a certain number of credits each year or semester and get reimbursed upon successful course completion.

Another great incentive to offer is a pay raise for employees who earn additional degrees while employed with your company.

Developing your current staff members into tomorrow’s company leaders takes some time and investment. Eventually, your time, effort, and investment dollar amount could pay off with new talent and new company ideas to help boost your organization’s profit and productivity.

**********
Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

4 Ways Leadership Can Prepare Facilities for Weather Disruptions

Bad Weather Ahead
 

It’s essential for leadership to take incoming weather threats seriously. If not, there is the very real risk for huge revenue losses, crippling facility damage, staff and operational turmoil, and compromised customer service, all of which could put the company’s future at risk.

The question isn’t so much, “Will my facility be disrupted by weather?” as, “When will my facility be disrupted by weather?” Even in areas with mild climates, the unexpected is a regular occurrence.

Why put your bottom line in such danger when you can be proactive and put your business in an advantageous position? Leadership is supremely important when dealing with weather-related outages — as it goes, so will your business’ status during an unplanned disruption.

How to Captain Your Ship Through Its Next Storm

Despite improvements in weather forecasting in the past decade, there is still risk when storms happen. Rather than being caught off guard, use these four strategies to prepare your facility for what’s coming:

1. Draw Up a Blueprint

Every enterprise needs to prepare a thorough disaster plan that establishes protocols for staff, operations, supplies, and services. This plan should be comprehensive enough to apply to any kind of business interruption, be it weather, power loss, evacuation, road closures, missed shipments, etc.

It should also be focused enough to provide real guidance and direction in the event of chaos. Make sure this plan is widely shared, practiced, and available even if your primary location is inaccessible.

2. Talk To Your Team

Communication is essential before, during, and after a severe weather event. Unfortunately, making calls, sending emails, or even meeting face-to-face may all be impossible during a disaster.

Explain to your staff when, where, and how to exchange information, and have multiple backup communication plans in place. You should also establish clear hierarchies and contact trees so nobody in your organization gets left in the dark.

3. Get the Gear and Service You Need

The supplies you need and the service you require to endure a weather event may not be available once that event is on the horizon or underway.

Supplies can be something as small as a snow shovel and rock salt, or as significant as boards and tools to cover your windows and doors, or a generator to provide backup power. Have as many of these items nearby as possible, including food, water, or extra fuel for your generator.

If the “gear” you need is service, make sure vendors are available to support you during an emergency.

4. Be a Good Neighbor

If your business is disrupted, it’s quite likely surrounding shops and residents are, too. Rather than adopting an “every person for himself” mentality, look for ways to use your facilities, resources, staff, and expertise to help with the disaster effort.

This is a welcome demonstration of corporate citizenship that can not only help build goodwill for your business, but can also keep your company in the public’s mind for patronization when the weather clears up.

Your goal whenever weather affects facilities, operations, staff, or supply chain is to maintain business continuity. If you must close, your aim should be to stay closed only until it’s safe to resume working. You don’t want to invite unnecessary risks, but you also don’t want to be overly cautious and damage your reputation or growth potential as a result of an unexpected storm.

The only way to marshal the suitable response is to act early and appropriately based on extensive plans and protocols. If any aspect of your business is unprepared for the next blizzard, hurricane, flood, or fire, now is the time to shore up your defenses. Organizations that embrace a culture of preparedness can keep any disruption, no matter its form, from turning into a disaster.

No matter when or where the next storm happens, forethought, technology, and tenacity in preparation eliminates the need to guess if or when. This way, when it happens, despite timing or location, leaders can operate from a position of strength in a time of vulnerability.

**********
Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Dave Gorham

Dave Gorham is Senior Meteorologist at StormGeo
He is a former U.S. Air Force meteorologist with expertise in aviation meteorology and severe weather.
Email | LinkedIn | Website

Image Sources: savainsurance.com

Leadership Lessons Learned From the Playing Fields

by Leah Fygetakis

Girls Rugby
 

When I was in college, I played on a women’s recreational touch football team.  We were known as the Iron Ovaries. Those were the days of women claiming our rightful place in being able to do whatever men could do. 

Yes, the times were changing… but have they really?

Ask yourself this question:

Are women today seen as men’s equals in their credibility and effectiveness as problem-solvers and as leaders?

You Throw Like a Girl

When this is said to a man, it is a powerful accusation that can send him back to a place of childhood shame in no time flat.  For a boy to be like a girl is to be weak.

So I ask you, how many men do you know who can easily exercise compassion in the course of their leadership?  Do examples of such behavior come to mind in equal numbers among the men and women  leaders within your network?

There is no one right answer, of course.  Likely, it is variable among fields of businessorganizational cultures, and individual differences.  But, I am curious over how we play out or preferably, move on from life’s early lessons so we can lead with a full toolbox of options.

The best toolbox is one that has a “yin” for every “yang” of behavior.  There is a time and a place when all good leaders must be able to display a “steely resolve”, and one where they must be able to exercise “gracious acceptance.”

Subtle Rebuttal

As parents, we would like to think that we are raising our sons and daughters to value who they are and to not get stuck in the traditional sex roles of yesteryear.  I am coming to recognize that this is a taller order than I thought.  It plays out in the most subtle of ways.  I have three short vignettes that show the stubborn, unconscious hold that sex role stereotypes have in how we think and act.

We are all “guilty” of stereotyping roles to specific genders. Both men and women do this even though that cognitively most of us agree that these stereotypes should have no place in business. We generally agree it is best to simply make the best use of our human capital without regard to gender. But this always doesn’t play out in a gender-neutral way.

What does this mean for the workplace when so many of us wear these blinders?  Are we unable to recognize the talent and the resources that are plainly right in front of us?

Vignette 1

I am on the soccer field and it is a very hot day.  The coach motions my 8-year-old son to the sidelines and I ask him if he would like some water.  He takes the bottle of water, but struggles to loosen the cap.  “Here, let me help you,” I say.  He ignores me and walks over to his coach, hands him the bottle and accepts his help.  Apparently, cap-loosening is a “man’s job.”

Vignette 2

I was almost always present for my sons’ baseball practices.  Often, the coaches solicited extra help from among the dads who were there.  One day, my sons and I were early and I was hitting balls on the diamond for them.  I played ball in high school.  More kids arrived and joined in.  The first coach arrived and I started to hand the bat over to him.

“Oh no,” he said, “you are doing just fine.  Keep going.”

” Why didn’t you tell me you could help?” he added.

“I guess I didn’t want to insert myself in the middle of all that good male bonding going on” I replied.

“That’s silly,” he said, “we need the help.”

I wanted to say, “Well all you had to do was ask, just like you’ve asked every dad who has been out here” (some of whom had chatted about how they had never played organized baseball). Uhhhhh…

However, rather than adding my comment I thought this would be an excellent time to exercise my gracious acceptance and say nothing.

Vignette 3

Early in my career, I taught psychology and women’s studies courses for undergraduates.  I was extremely well versed on sex role stereotyping.  During this time, I got my first pet, a weeks-old stray kitten.  Having never had pets before, I accepted the vet’s pronouncement that the kitten was male.  It was a bundle of energy and I took to rough-housing with it a lot.  It wasn’t until the kitten went into its first heat that I realized it was female.

Soon after, in the middle of a rough-housing session, I suddenly stopped.  Slowly it seeped into my consciousness that I had thought I was being too rough.  But I wasn’t being any rougher than I had been before.  The only thing that had changed was my knowledge that this was a female kitten.

It was an “Aha, I gotcha” moment in realizing that even though I was an expert on sex role stereotyping, their power still had a hold on my unconscious.  What a lesson!

Looking in the Mirror

I return to my point that even though most of us “know better,” sex role socialization and stereotypes are hard to erase in our unconscious thoughts and actions.  To counter this, for myself, this has meant building in some regular self-reflection check-ins.

I ask myself, “Would my impressions be any different if this person were the other sex?  Would I be acting any differently?”

What are your thoughts and experiences around gender, sex roles, and leadership?  How do you keep yourself aware and honest? What has stuck in your mind about sex roles that might need to be reconsidered? I’d love to hear what is going on between your ears!

———————–
Leah Fygetakis is Founder and Principal of Directed Success
She can be reached at leahfygetakis@comcast.net

Image Sources: linkedin.com

Leadership Procrastinationitis

by Dr. Bärbel Bohr

Procrastination.jpg
 

Is there a prescription treatment for procrastinationitis? This is the “disease” that seemingly permeates people so that every action needs to be delayed until…. well, ….. uh,…. later, I guess?

Some Things Never Change…

I knew it would happen this way. When I sat together with my colleague Linda to prepare the quality feedback survey for our courses, I handed her over questions #1-5 to cross-check on them.

Backgrounder: [Linda was supposed to have prepared questions #6-10.]

Looking at me innocently, Linda shrugged her shoulders and showed me her most charmful smile and said:

Well, you know,” she answered while her eyes avoided to look at me: “My daughter got sick and I had to run so many chores yesterday that I couldn’t prepare the questions.”

I suggested a break and decided to get some tea from the cafeteria to cool down.

Yesterday!” she had said.

We got the assignment one week before Christmas and were at the beginning of February now! I couldn’t believe it. She could have prepared everything well in advance. Instead, we would have to do everything together now in order to keep our deadline. I felt cheated.

On my way to the cafeteria, I remembered that last year she had put up a big post-it on her desk visible to all of her colleagues and her boss:

The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing. (Walt Disney)

When we saw the post-it, we all looked at each other sighing and thinking:

Well, she is giving it another try.”

Linda, a charming, witty and very creative colleague who we all cherish, is a chronic procrastinator: our cinderella of “last-minute”-stands. Two months into the new year the post-it disappeared without any further mentioning it.

“Procrastinators Anonymous”

I assume most of us, including myself, have some procrastination attacks from time to time, yet around 20% of the population suffer from the chronic form of procrastination.

My students call it “procrastinationitis.”

There is tons of material out there in form of books, blogs, self-help courses that try to help and don’t need to be repeated here. On Wikibooks you can find a comprehensive overview of available resources on procrastination.

It is a wide-spread disease, no doubt.

What Linda tried in the past, some of us may have to get inspired to do now; overcome procrastination.

  • What would you say?
  • Have you made progress?
  • Or have you already reached the slump so that you feel like giving up?
  • Is it that you, um, perhaps, are reading this blog article in order to avoid doing something else that you should do right now?
  • And now feel tempted to switch to your email because you start to feel guilty?
  • Or do you perhaps happen to know some employee of yours who has taken this resolution?

According to studies on the subject, many therapies fail because the patients are supposed to change in a way that does not suit their personality. Authors of self-help books on the topic tend to be well-structured and organized. It must be very frustrating for procrastinators to see all the plans, control patterns they are supposed to learn.

Joseph Ferrari, associate professor of psychology at De Paul University in Chicago, sums this up nicely:

Telling someone who procrastinates to buy a weekly planner is like telling someone with chronic depression to just cheer up.

Procrastination and Corporate Culture

Even though it is always one’s own decision to stop procrastination, I started to think on my way back from the cafeteria in how far we as leaders and colleagues in companies and corporations can foster the tedious process of behavioral change and make it easier for the individual to adapt to it.

After all, procrastination may cause loss of productivity because most people are not happy that they delay their activities.

I came across some suggestions for team leaders and managers in Kevin Burns’ blog that I would like to share with you.

His Top 3 list of advice contains the following items:

  1. Break down projects into digestable pieces: The shorter the deadline, the less possibility for the procrastinator to delay the work
  2. Always ask the procrastinator for the status when you see him or her and do it in public. This will help to develop reliability.
  3. If a procrastinator does not deliver on time, show consequences and pass on work to a good worker

These pieces of advice sound convincing, but I am sure they would not work in all types of corporate culture. “Forced control” mechanisms like these might lead to more sophisticated ways to achieve procrastination in the long-term and might even develop mistrust between leader and employees.

I would, hence, rather favor measures, which help the employee remain accountable for putting off the work, and avoid patterns, which require permanent interventions by the manager. Measures that I prefer see the manager or leader in the role of a temporary coach so that the employee can really find out the reasons why the work is getting delayed so very often.

A coaching relationship would be the first step to a real cure, not just fighting the symptoms. This, of course, would only work if the manager is not a messy procrastinator him- or herself. As we all know, overworked managers have a tendency to procrastinate, too.

What do you think about these suggestions? Which ones would work for you? How can you as a leader help your employees heal procrastination?

**********
Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

——————–
Dr. Bärbel Bohr owns “Bärbel Bohr – Projekte mit System”
Lecturer at HSR Hochschule für Technik / Rapperswil (Switzerland)
She inspires success in leaders & students on communication & culture awareness

Email | Web |

Image Sources: magnetmagazine.com

Billionaire Birthday

A Global Leader Turns 66

 

Infographic Courtesy of Frame Your TV

L2L Infographic: 20 Ways to Communicate Better at Work

 

20 Ways to Communicate Better at Work Infographic

Infographic Courtesy of Net Credit

On Leadership and Optimistic Fearlessness

How Your Small Business Can Beat the Goliaths

Small Guy vs. Big Guy
 

If you have an idea for a small business or startup, but feel discouraged because you feel you can’t hope to compete with the big guys, you need not give up on your dreams.

Hamburgers were around before McDonald’s got its start, and the same is true with athletic shoes before the advent of Nike or Reebok. The secret sauce to being competitive in a crowded area or one that has a dominant player is a combination of brand development and customer loyalty.

There have been many stories about smaller companies won out against the larger competitors because they came up with the products, a brand, or even a lifestyle that became iconic.

Offer Something New

You may have a passion for selling anything from women’s clothing to mayonnaise, but the first question to consider is what makes your product different from what’s already on the market. The fact that you have an idea implies that there is something lacking among the available choices, and your product may fill in the gap.

What you offer does not need to be entirely new, since as the saying goes, there is nothing new under the sun, but it can be a fresh spin on a tired concept. Some people have notions of an attitude or feeling their products will convey that sets it apart from the company that makes ordinary widgets.

A good branding strategy is to show that there is an aura or vibe conveyed by your product.

Beat Them at Their Own Game

Don’t be afraid to go directly for the customers of that big box retailer or that winning website. You should also not be shy about directing comments about a competitor.

In addition to just trying to beat them at their own game, you can say outright that you are trying to prevail against the big guys if you offer deep discounts or a truly one-of-a-kind product.

At the same time, you have to create an idea of your own target customer who may be slightly different from the target customer of a huge competitor. Since your operation is smaller, you have the advantage of creating a more specific niche market, since the typical customer of Amazon is just about anybody, and this customer can be harder to pinpoint.

Use Negative Publicity to Your Advantage

Oscar Wilde, the Irish poet and wit once said the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about. This is not necessarily true of companies, since an E. coli breakout or a major corporate scandal can send stock prices plunging and customers fleeing.

However, there are ways you can use not only negative publicity to your advantage, but unsavory headlines for publicity.

There are likely to be very few cases where this can be done, but some companies have made their name on what seemed at first blush like negative press. One of a company’s worst nightmares, particularly small a small company, is being hit with a lawsuit from a larger competitor.

Going Against Goliath

Hampton Creek, makers of the Just Mayo product that is free of eggs, was sued by Unilever, the owner of the Hellmann’s mayonnaise brand. Unilever filed a lawsuit because it believed the use of the term “mayo” by Hampton Creek was false advertising, since the product contains no eggs.

Unilever ended up dropping the lawsuit and sales of Just Mayo increased astronomically because of the news the lawsuit, and regular supermarkets stocked the products. People flocked to this brand because the lawsuit the lawsuit made it seem like the more established company was frightened of competition from the new, healthy alternative.

Since many people are interested in healthy eating, they enthusiastically got behind the Just Mayo brand.

Creating the Right Balance

Even if your small business is an area that seems crowded or has a dominant force to contend with, by creating a balance of making it new and beating the competition at his own game, you can achieve success and market share.

Go for the typical customer while zeroing in on your fans.

Also, develop a brand that sets your products apart from other offerings on the shelves or the Internet.

Jump at the opportunity to use publicity about your company or the industry to your advantage. Once you’ve earned attention you can monetize it by marketing directly to potential customers on social media or advertising.

**********
Never miss an issue of Linked 2 Leadership, subscribe today.
Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders
————–

Images Sources: portfoliopartnership.com