February 14, 2013

Eliminate Barriers to Small Business Growth

In my analysis of the exotic furniture shop that felt it couldn’t compete with “the big boys”, I mentioned the concept of an “anti-USP”. This is any factor that works against your Unique Selling Proposition. Your USP is one of the most valuable aspects of your business. It clearly states why customers should choose to do business with you instead of your competitors, and it emphasizes the value you offer your customers.

When you have any anti-USPs, however, all the good work you do in your business can be negated by one or more simple things. For the exotic furniture store, the used look of their furniture negated the value of these high-priced pieces.

Sometimes even the business name can be an anti-USP, as in the case of a former client who had the word “Kwik” in his business name. That particular spelling of the word “quick” indicates a low-priced, lower value service so sets up a customer expectation that yes, they’ll get something fast, but it is going to be inexpensive. Sadly, that business owner’s services were not inexpensive at all. Potential customers who invited him to give them a quote got immediate sticker shock as the price far exceeded what they were expecting to pay. His business suffered accordingly.

Another client had a very successful deli that was well positioned in a medical-dental building on a downtown street, surrounded by office buildings and close to the university campus. He enjoyed a loyal clientele who came in for take-out lunches or snacks, and he got a fair amount of foot traffic from downtown shoppers.

After attending a food industry conference, he had the notion to capitalize on the “fresh to go” trend that was all the buzz and he decided to add a line of fresh pasta that people could take home to cook. He thought this would be ideal for his customers who wanted a change from cold sandwiches or mass market fast food.

It was a good idea. He partnered with a supplier of fresh pasta, and set up a refrigerated display case in his deli. We got him some front-page publicity in the Lifestyle section of the local newspaper and he heard from many who were excited about this new direction for the deli.

Unfortunately, he had an anti-UPS that worked against him. The premise of the “good, fresh food, fast and ready to go” was negated by the fact that parking near his deli was extremely limited. The parking lot was nearly always full of cars driven by patients of the medical-dental building. Most of his customers walked to the deli from the surrounding campus and buildings.

To get their “ready to go” fresh pasta to take home, customers would have to walk over to the deli, buy the food, then walk back to their cars. Or, they would have to purchase the food earlier in the day when they came by for lunch, at which point they had the problem of keeping it cold until time to go home. There was no way for customers to park, run in, buy their pasta, and leave.

This very good idea failed because of lack of parking. Negotiations to reserve 2 or 3 “take out” parking spots at the building were unsuccessful. There was no on-street parking in front of the deli because of the number of people who parked downtown to shop. To make a success of this idea, he would have had to move to or open another location with better parking. He soon gave up the fresh to go pasta idea and returned to focusing on his deli business.

Sometimes it’s the small things that can stop a great idea. What anti-USPs may be operating against your success in your business?

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