If someone walked up to you and said "you should make your business more like a snowflake" you'd probably think they were a little crazy. Do they think your business should be made from ice crystals? Be cold or melty? Fall from the sky? None of these seem like desirable business attributes.
But, there's one thing that each and every snowflake has that a small business should strive for—uniqueness. When the ice crystals that make up a snowflake all get together, they always assemble themselves in a new and different formation. Snowflakes always have a unique structure and a unique appearance.
Just like snowflakes, your business will have several different types of uniqueness. On the surface, you'll want your brand and marketing materials to look unique, so that when all of your materials go out, they can stand out from your competitions'.
Your business will have underlying structural elements that make you different. This will include how your business is put together, how you run your business, the products and services you offer, and all those sorts of business considerations that show up in your business plan.
But your business has one other type of uniqueness that snowflakes don't
And that's personality. This kind of uniqueness is a bit tricky for small businesses. The challenge is separating the personality of the business from the personality of the entrepreneur running the business.
Why bother with this distinction? It can help your business appear more professional, by establishing you as a business instead of just a freelancer. Positioning yourself as a company instead of just an individual can also help you command more respect and higher rates.
If you're planning to grow your company by hiring more people to work for you, then using your business uniqueness instead of your personal uniqueness will make you look less like a consultancy and more like a company. Positioning your business in that way from the beginning can help you to wean your clients from expecting to work with you personally. This can be invaluable as you add on staff.
How To Be Unique
Here's a simple plan that can help you overcome the uniqueness challenge:
1. Create a business and brand plan
A lot of small businesses skip this step because it seems pretty elementary. But the process of writing down things like your business structure, product and service offerings, competition, mission, vision, experience and marketing plans can help you unearth elements of your own uniqueness.
A business plan that's created for these purposes doesn't have to be "official sounding", or particularly long. All it has to do is to record your basic plans.
2. Identify your uniqueness
What is unique about you? That's actually one of the most difficult questions for anyone to answer. The reason why it's so hard to tell what's unique about you is that you typically do whatever it is that makes you unique naturally – and constantly. You do your unique behavior or skill so often, and so effortlessly, that you probably don't even notice you're doing it.
So if you don't know that you're doing something that makes you special, how do you figure out what that is? You can look at your competition to see if there's anything that's central to the way you do business that they're leaving out. Or ask clients who have worked with you what made the experience unique. You could also try writing down everything that you do, or creating a case study of a client project, and have a friend or colleague look over your notes. Something may jump out at them that you don't even notice.
3. Separate your business's uniqueness from the business owner
This step has different challenges depending on your plans for your company's growth. If you want to keep your company the same size and just grow the business in terms of revenue and success, then the challenge is separating out just enough of your own personality, and still leaving some unique traits for the business. The trick is to avoid going overboard when separating your self from the business. This can make your business' personality too professional and sterile.
If you want to eventually build a company that's bigger than yourself, plan your brand to work for the growing company. The challenge here is creating a personality for your business that your employees will be able to embody—and then hiring employees based not only on their qualifications but also on their ability to match that personality.
How do you do this step? I recommend noting your personality in social situations, and comparing it with your personality in business situations. If you're shy in social situations, it might also help to note your personality when you're interacting with your spouse or children. Then see which of these traits you could comfortably and professionally bring to your business.
For example, say you really enjoy story time with your children. It could be business-appropriate to explain your services in a more story-like manner. That would infuse your sales process with personality and help to bring beneficial personality to your clients.
4. Brand your business to show that uniqueness
Many businesses have a lot of personality, but they design their brands to look "professional" instead of showing off makes them special. The other extreme is when companies design graphics that are either too complicated or too unique—so they don't have any meaning to the client or prospect looking at them.
Make the most of your graphics by defining your unique brand, then using common shapes and symbols to communicate your brand message. If you're a financial advisor who focuses on helping clients do all the fun things they want to do in their lives, then a bright color palette and energetic shapes like starbursts may be appropriate. But if you're focusing on helping people who don't understand investing to make sound decisions, then circular, trust-building shapes and a more traditional color palette of navy and gold may be more appropriate.
Taking these 4 steps to show your business' unique design, structure and personality will help your business avoid looking too coldly professional. They'll help you to show your prospects and clients what a unique snowflake you really are, and your business will shine.