Using Your Small Business Marketing Tools to Differentiate Your Business

Perhaps the most important quality for your small business marketing materials is that they are different. If you do nothing else right in your small business marketing, at least be different.

Why is differentiation so important? Because, in most industries, there are hundreds – if not thousands or millions – of other businesses that claim to provide the same service or sell the same product as you do. If you don’t differentiate your business from all those others, the chances that you’ll get many customers are pretty slim.

Some common ways to differentiate your business are:

Superior service

Greater product availability

Higher quality

Better performance

Greater durability

Prestige

Technology leadership

Satisfaction guarantee

Lower cost

Faster delivery

More customer support

But even if you are very different than your competitors – you offer superior service, greater durability, or a satisfaction guarantee that beats all others – it won’t matter unless your prospective customers know about it.

That’s where your small business marketing strategy comes in. Businesses have been using their small business marketing strategies to announce how they’re different from their competitors as long as they have been using small business marketing strategies. Think Maxwell House’s “Good to the last drop,” Campbell’s Soup’s “Mmm, mmm good,” or WalMart’s “Always low prices.” Those highly successful taglines not only get prospective customers to remember the company name, but also convey a message about the difference between that company and others.

To make differentiation a part of your small business marketing strategy, you first need to understand your competitors – you can only explain how you’re different from them once you know what they’re like. Learn what your competitors offer, how they differentiate themselves, and – most importantly – what your prospective customers think about them (if you know what qualities your prospective customers see as shortcomings in the other companies in the market, you’ll have a good idea of the market gap you can fill).

Once you’ve decided how you are different from your competitors, you need to tell your prospective customers about it. Building that differentiation into your tagline can be a very effective start. Then include that tagline, along with your logo, on every piece of small business marketing collateral you have. Another small business marketing way to publicize your differences is to write a press release. Explain how you’re filling a need in the market that no other company has filled.

Once you’ve differentiated your company and used your small business marketing tools to publicize your differences, you have to follow through on your promises. If you say that you’re the cheapest – or the highest quality, or the friendliest, or whatever – then you better be just that (nothing turns away a customer like a failed promise).

Is Going Direct Really Cheaper Than A Broker Or Price Comparison For Small Business Insurance?

The UK media is currently awash with advertising slogans from direct commercial insurance companies targeting small business owners in an attempt to make them switch their provider of business insurance.

‘Get 12 months cover for the price of ten’ and ‘You won’t find us on price comparison websites’ are typical of the slogans emanating from these companies, in a language more akin to the selling of car insurance than the traditional professional and almost stoic approach to the selling of business insurance cover.

In the current recession, price has become the determining factor in winning the war of market share for all goods and services and insurance is no exception. Prudent small businessmen and women are looking to cut costs in all areas of their business and the large direct insurance companies are well aware of this.

The large insurers are also aware that the UK market has over five million small businesses of which a fifth are sole traders, self-employed and people working from home, many of whom are familiar with purchasing their personal insurance direct with the provider, either by phone or on the Internet.

There are three types of provider in the current market for business insurance in the UK.

Intermediaries such as insurance brokers and agents, price comparison sites and direct commercial and business insurers.

Each has their own advantage and disadvantages, however whether one distribution channel is cheaper than another is often a subjective view from a particular trade, or dependent upon factors many of which cannot be quantified in price.

Direct Insurance companies claim to be able to offer cheaper polices because the cut out the costs of the middleman. It is certainly true that direct insurers do not have to pay an intermediary for the cost of the lead or introduction, however it is questionable whether this cost saving is actually reflected in the prices offered to the public.

Certainly there are economies of scale to be made by centralising the life-cycle of a policy from sales point to claim and renewal, however all those functions that are performed by an intermediary still have to be carried out in-house by the direct company and these have a cost.

Many large composite insurers often have distinct direct divisions with their own target market and premium rates. The same company may also have a broker or intermediary division or channel.

It is quite often the case that a large broker with a large book of business of, for example, small builders liability, will receive much more preferential rates then the same companies direct channel, because that insurance company wishes to retain that brokers clients.

Commercial Insurance brokers then are often able to offer preferential rates because they have more flexible schemes and arrangements than the direct channel.

One of the main benefits of using an insurance broker or intermediary in purchasing commercial insurance for small business, cannot be quantified in price and is worth the commission or fee that they may charge. That is advice, market and product information and knowledge, access to various markets such as Lloyds and some human help if the worst happens to a business and a claim is needed.

A commercial or business insurance broker is often able to negotiate far better claims settlements than if an individual were to deal direct with the insurer. The main reason for this is once again the insurer wishes to retain that brokers share of the total risk pool and will often pay out to a broker on an ex-gratia basis. This cost of this service is not quantifiable at the quote stage where small business cover may well just be valued for the price paid or the covers bought.

The third major way in which small business owners can purchase cover is by visiting a price comparison website. All the major UK comparison sites have recently begun to offer online cover aimed particularly at the small business sector, with under 50 employees. This is in direct competition with the direct insurers for television and media advertising space, aimed in particular at self-employed tradesmen and women who require business liability insurance and perhaps commercial van cover.

The comparison price proposition is that they can compare the market or at least a small section of it, to find the cheapest business insurance. They often do not provide any assistance in the purchasing decision-making process and the reality often is, that the cheapest commercial and small business insurance can be found in one of the other distribution channels.

It is therefore important that a small businessman shops around and takes some time to compare offerings including premiums, covers and services from all three sales channels. Prices tend to vary immensely by trade across the direct, broker and comparison markets and often it is a case of finding the provider or supplier who is the industry leader for a particular business type or trade in order to make large savings.

How to Get the Best Small Business Bank Account for Your Company

There are several factors to consider before choosing a business bank account. Company size, location, and business plan are all important elements that affect the type of business account an owner should choose; these factors should be taken under serious advisement while making such an important business decision. There are several things that a business account should entail and the best business bank accounts encompass all of the following attributes.

Define and Explore Your Needs

Before choosing a financial institution, consider the reasons you need a business bank account in the first place. If you are interested in specialized services, research banks in your region that offers these services. Be prepared to perform online and in-person investigations; often times, online information only covers surface information and cannot answer pertinent questions you may have. Never assume something that isn’t clearly stated; don’t be afraid to ask for concrete answers to your business banking questions. Credible financial institutions won’t have any problems calming your nerves and satisfying your financial inquiries.

If you hadn’t considered this before, search for a bank with a financial adviser. Many financial institutions offer these services as an added perk; benefits can include aide and guidance in future investments and professional help to manage cash flow.

Compare Features to Find the Best Small Business Bank Account

Once you have firmly established what you are searching for in a bank, comparing and contrasting the financial institutions in your area is a relatively simple task. Don’t forget that once you’ve narrowed down your options, you can always call to request more specific information or to schedule a meeting to review information and address particular concerns you may still have.

Keep in mind the importance of availability and account services. A bank that offers great incentives but lacks a local branch doesn’t do much good if you prefer a face-to-face interaction. On the other hand, nationwide banks that offer online banking but lack your required account services will likewise do you no good. Determine the type of banking system you will prefer and find one that suits your small business account needs.

As you draw closer to choosing a financial institution, remember to focus on fees and service charges. In most banks, fees for business accounts are significantly higher than those for private accounts, even going so far as to charge businesses for online banking services but not charging individuals. Beware that universal truths pertaining to personal bank accounts do not hold true in the business account realm.

Bank Size Does Matter

At some point in the life of a small business, it is highly probable that the company will need to borrow money. Since the decline in the market, many banks are making it more and more difficult to get credit. Surprisingly, many small business owners have turned to community and small banks to get the loans they require. Small banks are more likely than world institutions to issue loans to indigenous businesses because it strengthens the local economy and supports the community. These minor institutions tend to meet a small business’s financial needs on a more personal field and provide a level of support that “outside” banks cannot.

Once you have evaluated each of these steps and determined what services and values best fit your financial needs, it is as simple as a visit or the click of a mouse to get the best small business bank account for your company.

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