When starting out in the world of small business it can feel as though you’re just one in an endless choir of voices. Alone larynx in a sea of thousands, screaming at the top of your lungs and hoping that you’ll be heard in the cacophony. The world of small business is a wonderful thing, especially in the digital age. It prevents the corporate leviathans from consolidating their stranglehold on the economy. Speaking of the economy, small businesses are tremendously useful on that front. They create jobs, generate wealth and drive innovation. They treat their employees well, they make a valuable contribution to their communities and pay their taxes. And yet, despite the myriad economic and social benefits they bring, small businesses often flounder in an economy dominated by multinational titans. Why? Why must 50% of startup businesses fail within their first 5 years because the customers that could have sustained them chose to take their business to Amazon? Why must we hand more and more economic power to tax dodging mega corporations because consumers see more value in familiarity than in quality?
If you operate a small business of your own, you likely know how it feels to lose custom to a better-established brand. Indeed, you probably did some questionable things to try and redress the balance. Many small business owners find that they are unable to match their bigger competitors on price and find themselves launching their businesses into a race to the bottom. Of course, the difference is that the bigger businesses can afford to keep their prices low because they have much broader consumer reach and the enormous volume in which they buy earns them favorable prices with suppliers. For a smaller business, however, this is simply not sustainable. But that’s okay. Your business doesn’t have to be the cheapest game in town, nor should it aspire to be. In fact, many consumers today aren’t nearly as motivated by cost as we all assume that they are.
You know what’s a far more effective motivator?
Most coffee lovers don’t go to Starbucks because they sell the cheapest coffee. They don’t far from it. They go there because they perceive value in the brand. With the high markup comes prestige and a sense of value as well as a sense of dependability. Not only do you know what you’re getting from a Starbucks latte, you also know that Starbucks will be here when you want a latte today and it’ll still be here when you want one next week. The Starbucks analogy not working for you? Take a look at Apple. Apple is by far the only consumer electronics brand in town, but they can charge more, they almost never throw sales and know that they will still command the same loyal following no matter what they charge. Why? That’s…
The power of prestige
Prestige is a driver of consumer behavior that should not be underestimated. Prestige can ensure that your customers pay you what your goods and services are worth and still leave knowing that they’ve got a good deal. Prestige builds value and genuine interest and excitement in your brand. Prestige can help you to stand out amidst legions of competitors. Prestige can position you as the best in your field and ensure that you and your employees work as hard as you can to earn that reputation. Prestige can drive you to continue to innovate and adapt to give your consumers the best products, services, and experiences time after time. Prestige can be of enormous value to your business… but how do you go about building it?
Give your small business the illusion of size
The animal kingdom is packed with diminutive creatures who can puff themselves up to a larger size to make competitors for their food and resources think twice before challenging them. It works in nature, so why shouldn’t it work for you? If your business relies on a website that’s a loosely configured WordPress template and your only points of contact are a mobile phone number and a Gmail address, it’s safe to say that you’re broadcasting your diminutive status. Being perceived as small can lead some consumers to form negative preconceptions about your business. They may not feel that you can adequately meet their needs or provide the level of service or quality of product that they feel they deserve. The good news is that you don’t have to hobble your business with expensive overheads to get an illusion of size and scope.
Contact a business that specializes in 1300 numbers and gets them to give you a prestige number and business forwarding address to replace that cell phone number. While you’re at it, see if they can hook you up with a virtual receptionist who can not only contribute to your sense of size and prestige but can also prove extremely helpful as you get busier. Get yourself down to People Per Hour to source a talented web developer to give your digital presence the once over.
Create the myth in your marketing
Many of the brands that we associate with prestige are not so very different from your own. The only difference is that they’ve used their marking to build a myth. A luxury brand is not created in the experience or even necessarily the product itself but the image. Take Belvedere vodka for example. There’s nothing particularly prestigious about their humble distillery in Poland, nor the rye with which they make their product (let’s face it, all vodka tastes like toilet cleaner anyway). But throw an image of a palace and the tagline “The World’s First Luxury Vodka” and you have a luxury product. Use your marketing to spin a yarn and create a narrative for your customers and you’ll be astonished at how quickly they gravitate towards you.
Today, the market for bespoke products is thriving and even superficial levels of customization can help to build your brand’s sense of prestige.
Embrace the power of the finishing touches
Did you know that in terms of the parts and the way they’re put together there’s virtually no difference between a Volkswagen and an Audi? The only real difference is the symbol on the bumper and for diehard Audi enthusiasts that sticker is worth paying for. Why? Because Audi offers those little finishing touches that make an Audi A4 feel like a prestige car while a Volkswagen Passat feels like a decent estate car.
Never underestimate the power of appealing to the senses. A sensory immersion can go a long way to creating a sense of luxury which is why, returning to the automotive world, Rolls Royce infuse the interiors of their vehicles with a special aroma comprised of mahogany, leather, and oil. Color is also enormously important in determining your brand’s prestige value. Colors are a shortcut to your customers’ psychology and can either make or break your branding and marketing. Whether it’s in the color scheme for your website, the way you decorate your physical presence, the way you package the products or even the products themselves even a simple thing like the colors in your logo can go a long way in determining how your brand is perceived. Blacks, golds, and silvers have always been long associated with prestige, perhaps because they are semiotically connected to our most valuable resources, oil, coal and precious metals.
However, you choose to build prestige in your brand, don’t allow your business to be overtaken by second-rate impostors. Show your customers that only you can offer the products, services, and experience that they deserve!