On a recent weekend I watched the violinist and conductor André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra performing in his home town of Maastricht, Holland. Andre, with his curly hair swept back and his personal warmth and onstage stories, is a master showman. He has an orchestra of 120 and the dresses of this singers are in brightly coloured taffeta ballgowns.
The show itself is breathtaking if you’re into this kind of music. People find him charming, fascinating and entertaining. He has made classical music accessible and fun rather than stuffy.
His shows have been sold out and his albums have achieved high ratings on the classical and pop charts.
I don’t think I’ll find myself willingly looking at a classical music performance but Andre has made classical music so entertaining and colourful that you are drawn into the performance and some of the music makes you feel emotional. Others even cry.
The world has thousands of orchestras but how many people go out to watch them? How many people even watch them on TV? The difference with this orchestra is that it stands out head and shoulders above many others. He makes you feel part of the show rather than those that make you feel that you are a voyeur looking in on the classical music show and don’t really belong to the audience.
Small businesses need to stand out among their customers and in competitive marketplaces. One of the challenges is that a small business owner doesn’t have the money to spend on big marketing or branding campaigns like the large companies or international and national franchise chains. Money for standing out comes from a small pot that could be spent on many other areas of helping their business.
Another challenge is that small business owners may have come from technical or professional backgrounds and find it uncomfortable to become the public persona of their small business. They might be used to hiding away from the limelight and don’t recognise just how important it is to stand out from their competitors.
Distinguishing yourself in the market doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to have your picture plastered on posters all over the place. It may mean something simple as standing out in your marketplace through personalised, friendly service. Consider your own experience of buying products and services. How often have you gone into other small businesses and being treated well? When last do you remember another business solving a problem for you without charging extra? Have you had good experiences with product repairs or refunds?
Endless opportunities are available to you to stand out from your competitors including social media, local community advertising, better signage at your business premises, improved interior design and decor of your retail training space, easier and fun navigation on your online store.
None of this has to be that expensive if you go about it cleverly and find low-cost suppliers to assist you. But the real secret is to stand for something – whether that is customer service, product quality or fast delivery – and then to project this through whatever media reaches your target market to help you stand out from your competitors in a fun and exciting way.