in Small Business

You’ve spent many sleepless nights growing your business from a seed of an idea in your mind. Now you have a real business that benefits your customers. If your business is online, you may be especially worried. Though it takes work to create a website, it takes less work to rip off someone’s business idea online than it does to clone an entire bricks-and-mortar operation. What does it take to create a website that is immune from business copycats?

Originality Is Overrated

Every once in a while a new idea comes along that is a game-changer. The family car, personal computer, and Internet come to mind here. However, these watershed ideas are not the norm. Most businesses are competing with dozens of other look-alike enterprises. How many restaurants, pubs, hair salons, or car dealers are in your home town? Small towns may have only one, but most local businesses thrive amidst competitors. Clearly, having an original business idea is not the only path to success!

If your business has an edge due to intellectual property, by all means protect it. It takes work to create new ideas and bring them to market and it hurts when someone takes advantage of a system you have developed without paying or giving credit where it’s due. But it seems to me that the most resilient businesses are not worrying about protecting themselves as much as they are looking forward to creating more value for their clients.

Connection is King

Why do you go to your favorite hair salon? Why do you buy your coffee at one coffee shop or (choke) gas station versus another? A high quality product is presumed, but given two businesses or products of the same type and quality, why do you choose one over the other?

Bluff City Coffee thrives despite competition from Starbucks, Memphis TN

Recently, I started getting my daily Americano at Bluff City Coffee in Memphis. Their coffee is definitely better than Starbucks, but their price is higher.  I started going because I liked the walk and the coffee was great, but I keep going because the staff recognizes me and has my coffee brewing by the time I’m to the counter and ready to order. Their attention to my preferences makes a big difference. It demonstrates that they know me and care enough to give me what I want. This kind of connection can make your business impossible to copy.

Systems are reproducible. Content ideas are easily ripped off. However, relationships are unique to your business.

Consistency is Queen

I like my coffee shop because the I get a consistently good drink every day. As I mentioned above, strong relationships are a great value add but a relationship will not outweigh a consistently bad product or experience. If I show up for coffee tomorrow and my favorite destination is not open, it will affect my perception of that business.

Online businesses are similar. For years, my publishing schedule has been haphazard. In the past decade, I had a blog that covered HTML and CSS. This was just as Web design was moving from table-based code and beginning to embrace the use of CSS, so there was a demand for that type of content.

Consistency didn’t seem to matter there. Whenever I published content, people showed up by the hundreds. But, these visitors didn’t stay, and they didn’t interact. I have come to believe that part of the reason they didn’t interact when they came to visit was my lack of a consistent publishing schedule. Traffic was arriving through search engines but few people stuck around to subscribe or introduce themselves.

With this website, I have very recently begun to publish each Sunday night so that a new post is ready for you to read on Monday morning. Since then, I have seen an increase in email subscriptions and in visitors to my website. That increase is still modest, but it is reinforcing the truth of my claim here. Consistency is absolutely vital to the success of your blog … and though I’m not going to make a case for it here, every business should have a blog.

Think of a consistent publishing schedule for your blog as your business hours. That way, your readers will know when you’re “open” and be able to develop a habit of interacting with you. When you do this, let me know how it goes for you by emailing me or commenting here. I’m curious if you will also see more subscriptions and interaction.

Connection and Consistency. What’s Your Take?

What have you learned about making connections online through your website? How important has consistency been to your success? I’m not just asking. I want to learn from your experiences, so share. Leave a comment.