You have a perception of what your business offers, what values it brings customers that competitors don’t, and what makes you unique. But adjust the lens through which you view your business—and all the other aspects of your business that relate to it (like your products, brand, pricing and messaging) will change too. That could reveal untapped opportunities, and blind spots you wouldn’t otherwise recognize. Here are a few ways to shift your perspective about your business.
Connect with your entrepreneurial persona. Do you unintentionally belittle your business, and role in it? Words like “just” (“I just sell a few products out of my house), or “hobby” (“I make and sell handmade items as a hobby”) and even “side gig” diminish your perception of yourself as a bona fide business owner. Embracing the title of entrepreneur is a key factor in building a business you feel has worth. Research has proven the relationship between perceived ownership, and perceived value. In one study, participants were given identical mugs that they were to sell or trade with other participants. The participants who were told the mug was theirs to keep demanded (and commanded) a value that was 2.5 times higher than the participants who didn’t perceive ownership of their mug.
Be a part of the conversation. You may not be on the cover of Fast Company (yet)—but you have experienced similar wins, losses, challenges, and doubts that national recognized entrepreneurs once did. Recognize the value of those experiences and be a part of the larger conversation.
Read entrepreneurial news online and in social media, comment on the articles and insights your find compelling. Contribute your own knowledge on platforms like LinkedIn, on websites geared to small business owners, and even in Reddit forums. Attend conferences and networking events designed for small business owners and entrepreneurs, regardless of industry. Not only will you feel supported by a community of business owners who stand in your shoes, you’ll learn new tactics, tips and tricks you can apply in your own business.
Be a consumer. You form a perception of your competition based on their brick and mortar store, website and marketing, pricing and employees. But you can’t understand what they do well, how they fall short, or how your business stacks up relative to them until you’re one of their customers. Select five of your top selling products. Then, find five other businesses--online or in your community--that sell similar items. Order them just as a customer would. Take note of the many details that add up to a brand’s image, and the customer experience:
· What language and images helped sell the products?
· How are products priced; what discounts are offered?
· What is the product’s packaging?
· How was an item packaged in the bag or box when you bought it or when it arrived?
· What was your experience at the point of sale and post-purchase?
· How did you feel throughout the browsing, and buying process?
You need to act like a customer to understand what your business can truly offer. Until you see your business from that perspective, you won’t truly know your strengths and weaknesses.
Test before you invest. The principles of “The Lean Start Up” method encourage testing ideas, failing quickly, and investing very little into the process. When you have little at stake, you’ll be less afraid to take risks, and try new approaches.
Each quarter, list three aspects that are a fundamental part of your business operations. (You may list, for example, your product offering, hours of operation, and how you market to customers). Then, write down one way you could change something about each approach. If you sell soaps, for example, could you add hair care products? If you sell products online only, could you sell at a local event? If you mail customers postcards, could you expand into paid online advertisements or blogger outreach? Not all of the ideas will be good—but some may be. The idea is to think about a new way of approaching your business in a low risk environment, to continually evolve.