Entrepreneurs: wake up and smell the coffee!
In conversation with an entrepreneur last week I was reminded how myopic they can be, as a breed. Don’t get me wrong, entrepreneurs have many strong points. They take risks where others won’t, they see opportunity where others don’t and they innovate where others can’t. They are the lifeblood of our economy.
“Entrepreneurs bring the future to us.”
“They are willing to live abnormal, obsessive lives.”
“They are typically egotistical, self-centred and paranoid!”
I enjoy working with entrepreneurs. It’s just that communication isn’t always among their arsenal of strengths (not a problem if they acknowledge it) and often they don’t see beyond the end of their nose. An entrepreneur’s view of the competition is a case in point. In my experience, the first time entrepreneur is either overly pre-occupied with the competition (paranoid) or they believe resolutely that they have none (egotistical). Denial is certainly a dangerous way to go. On the other hand, keeping a close eye on who is doing what, is useful but it’s what you do with the knowledge that matters.
For instance, if a competitor is regularly stealing a march on you in the media, at conferences etc do you:
a) conclude that the media covering the competition is biased and should be avoided?
b) look at what your competitor is doing/saying, messages etc, then work out where you fit, what strengths/USP’s you need to highlight and what you need to do, to secure your share of voice?
I’m hoping you’ll say b) but I suspect (in fact, I know) there are entrepreneurs out there, who, without advice to hand, will unwittingly go for a). This is the stuff of missed opportunities and it derives from a combination of intense focus on their business, time pressures and lack of communications know-how, all of which are forgiveable but there are a number of points to make here:
- Firstly, it may seem obvious but success in today’s competitive markets requires a compelling product/service and a strategic approach to marketing/PR. Make sure you’re not so busy looking for new opportunities that you overlook the need to share your progress/success.
- Secondly, a weakness can become an opportunity. A journalist that regularly writes about your competition may be overlooking you because he/she doesn’t know about you or thinks you are something you are not. So put the record straight.
- Thirdly, messaging is paramount. Is yours on the money? If not, focus on what distinguishes you from the competition and invest time in developing strong messages that clearly articulate the need your product/service meets and the benefits it delivers (evidence of these will help e.g. case studies, testimonials). Then shout them from the roof tops and push out the evidence via your website, collateral, speeches, press releases, social media et al.
- And finally, if PR/marketing/communications are not your ‘thing’, seek advice. Much of it is common sense but when you’re so close to the coalface it can be hard to see the most obvious opportunities. You want journalists, conference organisers, search engines et al, supporting your efforts and that calls for clear messaging, clarity around your audiences and and a ‘smart’ approach to tackling the competition, both online and off. This could all help if you’re raising finance too.
All it takes is a step back, time to think and open ears.
Is this you? If so, wake up and smell the coffee!
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