Small Business Owners: How To Overcome Your Industry’s Reputation

If you’re discouraged about your business because your industry or product has a poor reputation, you’re not alone. However, if you’re passionate about your business, with perseverance, you …

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If you’re discouraged about your business because your industry or product has a poor reputation, you’re not alone. However, if you’re passionate about your business, with perseverance, you can overcome any reputation.

First, decide to be the best in your industry

Deciding to be the best in your industry doesn’t mean making a passive statement to yourself. This decision must drive every action and choice you make. You have to be the best before you can be recognized as the best.

Ask yourself how being the best would be measured. Sure, you can look at financial stats as a measure of success but that just means someone was good at making sales. The finest measure of being the best will come from what your customers think of you.

Analyze happy, satisfied customers

Look at any successful small business and focus on their customers. Why are they happy? What makes their customers come back? Do they treat their customers like family? Do they offer amazing deals? Are they faster than the competition?

Avoid looking at large corporations because when you do, you’ll see their value usually centers on convenience and low prices. If you’re aiming to provide quality, look at thriving small businesses that have lines out the door.

Focus on your product and customer service more than marketing

You shouldn’t have to work hard to convince people to buy your product. Focus on developing your product or service rather than the latest marketing strategy.

You can spend time and money developing your marketing skills, but when you’re the best at what you do, you can thrive without lifting a finger.

Bakesale Betty in Oakland, CA is a good example of a business that thrives selling fried chicken for just three hours a day, and doesn’t advertise. In fact, if you drove by their unmarked corner location, the only indication that they sell food would be people sitting in folding chairs, eating sandwiches on ironing boards for tables.

Bakesale Betty is a thriving business that doesn’t advertise, operates out of an unmarked building on a downtown corner with scarce parking, yet has lines that literally go around the block.

Thanks to fast food restaurants, fried chicken has a reputation for being poor quality, unless it’s made with grandma’s secret recipe. Bakesale Betty turned that notion on its head.

It’s not the marketing – it’s their recipe

If a friend invited you to go get a fried chicken sandwich from KFC, you probably wouldn’t get too excited. Once you’ve tasted the chicken sandwich from Bakesale Betty, you’d drive for an hour just to get one for lunch.

Open between 11am-2pm, they often sell more than 800 sandwiches by 1pm, and another 100 by closing time. In just three hours they sell over 2,000 cookies each day. If they run out of rolls before 2pm, they close early.

Why? It’s not their marketing. They don’t market. It’s their recipe. The food isn’t accidentally delicious – it’s made by former Chez Panisse chef Alison Barakat.

Sfgate.com describes this popular comfort food as elegant. “As you’d expect from an ex-Chez Panisse cook, Barakat’s comfort food is elegant, despite the pace. Egg salad calls for sorrel. The slaw’s dressing is made with Bariani olive oil and champagne vinegar. The chicken, pounded thin, soaked in buttermilk and dredged in a flour, cayenne and pepper coating, is fried crisp in soybean oil.”

They don’t just sell chicken sandwiches. They sell gourmet chicken sandwiches their customers can’t get enough of. If you want one, you need to come get it before they run out.

Be the example that makes people talk

When your industry has a poor reputation, you can turn people’s heads and make them talk simply by being the example of what you want them to experience. Take Fast Cash Pawn and Checkcashers for example. One of the most transformative pawn shops in Providence, RI, this family-owned business is impressing the locals and bringing integrity back to the pawn industry.

They buy and sell all the items you’ll find in a typical pawn shop, but they’re anything but.

They’re doing things so differently, they caught the attention of local news station WPRI. “When you come into our store, there’s always owners here. Everyone that works for us is all family and friends that we’ve known for a long time,” owner Cliff Frye told the station. “We try to emphasize customer first, getting to know people’s names, treating customers with lots of respect.”

They also offer a private room in the back for customers who prefer private transactions.

Questions to contemplate

  • What can you do differently to generate an intense demand for your services like Bakesale Betty?
  • What are the stereotypes for your industry or product, and how can you be noticeably different like Fast Cash Pawn?

Thriving in an industry with a poor reputation requires continually embodying the image you want to project, no matter what adversity you face. Remember, when you’re passionate about your business, you can do anything.

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