If you own a business, especially if a portion of your prospecting is done online, you have undoubtedly been asked, “What do you do exactly?”. We’ve struggled with this question ourselves in the past, and used to find ourselves stumbling over our words, feeling like we needed to adjust our elevator pitches based on who we were talking to at the time. It’s easy to become a little frustrated, although you can’t show it, because even though you understand your business and your business model, not everybody else does. Plain and simple, people are not in your head. They don’t read everything you write. And they definitely have no idea what you’ve already said to other people.
When selling a product or service, you are automatically categorized. You might be the local boutique or the big-box name brand, but these are just categories. And once you’re in a category, people compare you to others in the same category. Instead of making yourself or your business what you “think” you are supposed to be like, make it more about YOU.
In order for you to legitimize your business AND to prepare yourself (so that next time you are faced with those 5 dreaded words - “what do you do, exactly?” - you’ll have an answer that you’re confident about), we’ve prepared 5 steps that you can use to believe in yourself so much that everyone else will too.
1. Take Yourself Seriously
The biggest difference between our business now and our businesses a year ago is how we present ourselves. This is no longer a hobby, something we just do on the side, or something we demystify by calling freelance. This is our job and we are not afraid to tell the world that this is what we do! We now take ourselves and our business seriously. We’re confident when speaking and feel comfortable sharing, doing so without hesitation. If you remain shy, lurking in the background, as if you are embarrassed, your business is likely to stay exactly where it is. If you want it to double, or even triple in size, you have to be confident and have a plan in place to get it there.
2. Meet a Need and Beat a Standard
Your products or services have to be top notch. If you don’t use the best quality materials or pour all your heart and energy into your business, people will likely see it for what it is - less than your top priority. If you focus first on creating products and services that meet the needs of your customers, and then beat the standard they are used to, they will obviously come back for more, tell all their friends and family about you, and you will become the go-to in your field. We know that sometimes we would all rather just create something that will get us by, make us that paycheck and be done, but if we can focus on having the best quality, ultimate customer service, and a proven track record, anything is possible!
3. Showcase Your Purpose
Create a vision for your company… yes, we do mean write a business plan, but we also mean dream big. Where do you want to be a month from now, 6 months from now, or 3 years from now? If your company could do anything, or tackle any problem (regardless of capital), what would it be doing? If you make the strides towards this vision, have a plan in place to get there, and add a sprinkle of blood, sweat and tears, you will get there. Do you think any Fortune 500 company just happened to land into this arena? Sure, they might have acquired VC funding or have been blessed by an angel investor, but they didn’t just sit on it. They took action and followed a plan to achieve their goals.
We pride ourselves in only working with clients who have a purpose and who want to showcase that purpose. If money is your bottom line, we probably aren’t going to work well together. If making a difference, or making a change in society is your motivation, we will most likely get along… whether you are a for-profit company or not.
Some weeks are a wild ride of coffee dates, emails, social media, phone calls, design and blogging. However, along the way we’ve discovered that the people we meet are the reason we do this. We’ve met boutique owners, photographers, event planners, marketers, designers, bloggers, and so many more. But if all we do you is tell you the “category” they are in, you instantly make judgments. And heck, that is exactly the opposite of what we want. We want to draw you out of your business, and make YOU the highlight, the front page and the reason people should come back for more.
All of the people we meet are special in their own way, with unique gifts, creative communication styles and voices that are all their own. They aren’t cookie cutter - instead, they’re super genuine. Unfortunately, some of them don’t show those qualities online or in the way they present their business to the world. Some of these businesses hide behind who they think they need to be, when really they should just drop the mask. So focus on dropping the mask today, and showcasing your purpose and unique gifts.
4. Light Other People’s Fire
If you take yourself seriously and have a killer product all targeted towards this inner purpose, you are likely to be engaged, power-forward and enthusiastic. Don’t waste this valuable energy. Light other people up! Share your dreams and your passion with them. Tell them how you are going to get there. Get an accountability partner who is going to hold you to your promises and see you achieve your goals. Create a team of people who believe in you and want to watch you succeed. This stuff is powerfully contagious! We know exactly who our power team is.
5. Make your business more about YOU
Unfortunately, in society today there are so many stigmas about the kind of people we need to be, how we need to look, what we should eat, what we should wear, and how we should act. And even worse, these same sort of judgments come into play in business; how to run your social media, who to hire, what your brand should look like, the story you should tell, how to sell, when to sell, and where to sell. The list could go on forever. Today, if all you do is add a sprinkle more of you back into your business, it will be the best thing you did all day!
You and you alone are the unique selling proposition of your business. I can sell you a web design and so can a million other people, but if I am constantly trying to blend in, why would anyone utilize my services?
Let’s Get the Facts Straight:
- According to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010 there were 27.9 million small businesses, with over ¾ of those made up of solo entrepreneurs (source). That means a staggering 1 in 11 people in the U.S. own their own business (not accounting for those who own multiple businesses; source).
- Over 50% of the working population works in a small business (source).
- 52% of all small businesses are home-based (source).
- Total revenues from solo entrepreneurs (non-employers) hit $989.6 BILLION in 2011 (source).
Well ladies and gents, regardless if you have a store-front, “real” office or employees, you make up a legitimate portion of the U.S. economy. You make staggering records year after year. And heck, you put food on the table for half of the working population! Being an online business, or having online as a portion of your business, is a completely legitimate way to make a living. You have the power to make change all on your own, or even in small groups. You have dreams that are possible. Take yourself seriously. Next time someone asks you, “What do you do exactly?” tell them, with confidence, “I am a small business owner!” You never know where that conversation could lead you.
Remember that you are the single largest asset to your company. I don’t care how much you have invested into a building or inventory or staffing, you are the reason you started your business and that is a HUGE DEAL.
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