Steve Strauss wrote the bible on small biz. Literally. In addition to authoring The Small Business Bible , he runs MrAllBiz.com and is a featured columnist for USA Today. He's been studying, writing and speaking about how to grow a successful small business all his life, so email him with whatever leaves you stumped.
Q: In this tightening economy what can I do to distinguish my business? -- Erin
A: I'm a big believer in the wise words sung to Natalie Wood in the musical Gypsy: "I never have to sweat to get paid, 'Cause if you got a gimmick, Gypsy girl, you got it made!" In small-business terms, having a gimmick means creating a unique brand. Most small businesses think branding is only for the big guys. But think again: There are 25 million businesses in this country, and 99% of them are small businesses. That is a lot of competition!
Finding Your Hook
A unique brand creates a hook that people can remember you by. Great brands, big and small alike, evoke an immediate reaction, feeling or belief. When you think of McDonald's ( MCD) you probably envision cheap fast food. By contrast, you probably think of Starbucks ( SBUX) as a cool place to get a latte and hang for a bit. For Starbucks, the value of such a brand enables them to charge $3.50 for a cup of coffee. Your business is both smaller and has more competition than a Starbucks or McDonalds, so having a memorable brand is even more important for you. Here are two ways to create a great hook: 1. Consider or reconsider your business name. The name of your business is the single most important tool you have for creating a unique, memorable brand because it is the first -- and sometimes only -- thing people hear about your business.