By Meg Moss, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director
These days a lot of people are considering business ownership. Whether you buy into a franchise, lease some space and start your own thing, or log onto the internet and begin building an e-commerce website, doing it on your own has never been more alluring. But just because you have an incredible skill or access to cheap goods does not mean you’re ready to open the doors to your own business.
Starting a business without a strong foundation can hinder your sales. If you open your doors prematurely, you risk making a bad first impression or targeting the wrong audience. That can be hard to recover from. Before you hang that open sign and put out your welcome mat, ensure you know the answers to the following two questions. In next week’s Chamber Chat article, we’ll focus on two additional questions you need to answer before starting your own business.
First, what makes you or your business unique? Unless you hold the patent to a never-before-seen product, it’s likely you’re opening a business that already exists. This is not an affront to your abilities or genius. You are probably doing something that is already offered somewhere. If you’re fortunate, it doesn’t exist in your town or area. But you likely have some sort of competition for what you’re offering to do or sell.
So how do you entice customers to come to your business instead of that of your competitors?
You need to identify and communicate what makes you different. Many people claim their customer service sets them apart. Spend some time watching ads or reading them in your stream on social media. You’ll realize that service is not a unique selling point. Everyone thinks they offer it.
Your unique selling point could be your sales environment, a guaranty, a pricing offer, something about how you perform your service, or what’s included with the purchase.
Once you know what makes you unique, you want to create a plan to communicate that to your ideal audience.
Second question…who are you selling to? If you just answered “everyone”, you’re wasting your time and money. There’s at least one group of people—hopefully several—who understand, need, and want what you’re selling. Marketing to the rest of the world is a waste of resources. For instance, if you own a yarn store and you market specifically to people who love fabric arts and knitting, you will most likely bring in new customers. However, marketing to those who prefer active, physical hobbies may only get you a handful of clicks on your ads. Those clicks likely will not convert to sales. Focus on those you know you’ll have success with (your target market) before you consider converting others.
If you are considering opening a business in Lee County, I highly recommend you participate in the RISE Program to answer these questions. The “Real Investment in Sanford Entrepreneurs” Program takes potential business owners through the process of starting a business. It is an eight-class program, produced by a partnership between the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Sanford Incorporated, and the Central Carolina Community College Small Business Center.
Applications for this free program are being accepted through September 1st at leesbc.com/rise. Business owners who plan to open in downtown Sanford, downtown Jonesboro or downtown Broadway may qualify for a grant to help offset rent and utilities.