How to Build a Business that Stands Out (and Thrives)

Running a service-based business is stressful.

And this year?

Well, let’s agree, IT’S. BEEN. A. YEAR.

As you move to stabilize, revolutionize, or build a business that stands out—there’s not a moment to waste.

Amidst the chaos we’re *calling* 2020 there are innumerable ways to rise above the noise. Yes, it’s knowing your clients (you’re smart, you already knew that). But it’s so much more than that.

Here are 15 ways to build a business that stands out (and thrives):

  1. Put together an unforgettable brand
  2. Your standout story will attract more clients
  3. Show your clients why they should choose you
  4. Let your freak flag fly
  5. Deliver extraordinary service to build a business that stands out
  6. Dig out & address your client pain points
  7. Go above and beyond for your clients
  8. There are no *days off* for client service
  9. Use social media to build a standout business
  10. Charge your value {don’t focus on price}
  11. Approach business differently than your competition
  12. Go narrow to build a business that stands out
  13. Build a buzz around your in-shop experience
  14. Show off those trophies
  15. Build your business from the inside out

1. Put together an unforgettable brand

If you haven’t put much thought into your *brand,* there’s no time like the present. Creating a *can’t-get-you-outta-my-head* presence legitimizes you, helps attract your ideal clients, and gives you a leg up in building a business that stands out.

But, where to start?

You’ll need these three things:

  • Website (consistent colors, good navigation, mobile-friendly, well-written)
  • Legit email address (yourname@shopname.com)
  • A stronghold on your target client persona (Blake, age 32, a creative director living in NYC vs. females, aged 18-44, living on the East Coast, working in the creative industry)

Building your brand so your tattoo shop or hair salon stands out from the crowd makes an impression on potential clients. That’s why it’s so important for your *brand* to be more than a visual identity {logo, colors, fonts}. You want your presence to be felt within the vibe & culture of your business.

Dynamic branding not only helps you land more bookings with your ideal client; it helps attract new talent who resonate with your values & mission.

When used correctly branding will build lifelong, loyal connections with clients. Translation: they’ll keep them coming back to book more appointments. No pressure though 😉.

2. Your standout story will attract more clients

Meet Eddie Murawski. He’s the owner of Uptown Barbershop in Naples, Florida {AKA Mr. Eddie Barber}.

Eddie’s wanted his own shop since he was 15 years old—after all, his whole family works in hair. But getting started was difficult… like, really hard. He grew up poor and found himself working long hours in a factory while still cutting hair on the side. As he dragged himself into work each day with a pit in his stomach, Eddie knew something needed to change.

So, he began reading business books, plotting his *comeback,* and gathering up the courage to leave his dead-end job. Within the last two years, Eddie has opened his own barbershop, currently employs 6 barbers, and has 73,000 subscribers on his YouTube channel.

That’s a standout story.

Because here’s the thing, clients don’t book appointments with you solely because their bangs are getting too long or they want to lose the last 5 pounds. Behind each of your clients’ buying behaviors, there’s a need to feel something very specific. For example:

Clients don’t buy personal training sessions, they buy “feeling as fit as I was in my twenties.”
Clients don’t buy a cut & highlight appointment, they buy “feeling confident when I walk into my big job interview Monday.

So, how do you fill up your online appointment book? You tell a story. Storytelling is the strongest way to connect with your clients. It builds trust, doesn’t feel salesy & storytelling is the most natural form of communication we have to build a business that stands out.

Think about how you can tell your story.

What brought your business to the place it is today?
Why should your clients book an appointment with you?
How can you address their pain points using the services you offer as solutions?

Before you know it you’ll soon forget about trying to book more appointments, instead, it will come naturally as a result of the connections your building with your story.

Related → Barbershop Owner Explains How They Eliminate No-Shows and Get Booked Solid

3. Show your clients why they should choose you

How do you want to be remembered? If you want to build a business that stands out, you need to give your potential clients something to remember. The simplest way to do that is by defining who you are as a business. And be specific.

What’s unique about your business?

  • Maybe your nail salon only uses non-toxic, natural, and vegan products.
  • Perhaps you’re a psychologist who offers virtual sessions to all clients.
  • Or you’re the most expensive hair salon in town because your stylists are beyond well-trained.

Once you’re able to answer the above question ^^^, you need to talk about it… everywhere. On your website, social media, and to your clients. People remember *different* and when it’s a good different? They’ll keep coming back for more appointments.

4. Let your freak flag fly

This tip might go against every bone in your body. Growing up, most of us did everything possible to blend in, be accepted, and fly under the radar. Now that you’re part of an overcrowded industry, understanding what makes you different is one of the most important things you can do to thrive.

Give clients a reason to choose you. And, if you look like every other tattoo shop, nail salon, or chiropractors office out there you’re going to have a tough time filling up your schedule with appointments.

Not sure how to embrace your weird? Think about these tips:

Be bold → that little idea that’s been growing in the back of your mind? Try it. As long as it’s not going to bankrupt your shop or alienate your loyal clients… why not? The craziest ideas are often the ones that pay off.

Look at your client service → how can you infuse your quirk here? Are you toeing the line on social because you’re afraid that cheesy, behind-the-scene videos aren’t cool in your industry? Give ‘em a shot and see what happens. Send out that GIF filled email that makes you giggle. Or give one of your most loyal clients their tenth haircut on the house as a surprise.

Your quirks will be very individual and that’s the best part. The more you expose them, the more ideal clients will start booking with you *because* of them!

5. Deliver extraordinary service to build a business that stands out

a man lifting a barbell

It sounds simple but providing above board service is the simplest way for your business to stand out. Look at what your competition is doing and come up with ways you can top it. Not sure where to start? Let’s look at a few different industries:

Status Quo  Extraordinary
Tattoo: pen & paper appointment booking Online scheduling
Hair Salon: phone calls to confirm a booking Automated email/text reminders
Barbershop: walk-ins Online appointment based scheduling
Personal Trainers: scheduling weekly appointments Recurring bookings
Therapist: in-office sessions Virtual appointments

What do all these have in common (besides being available with online appointment booking)? They remove friction for your clients. Appointments can be scheduled & changed at their convenience, reminders are made on time and they’re held accountable to their programs with recurring bookings.

6. Dig out & address your client pain points

As mentioned a little earlier in this post, your clients are coming to you to solve a pain. It’s rarely as obvious as “I need to get my nails done,” the more likely push is “I want to express my style,” or “I want to feel confident on my date Saturday night” So if you want to win clients over, thus bringing in more online appointments, a great way to do that is to acknowledge, then alleviate their pain.

How can you solve your clients’ pain to build a business that stands out in your industry? Our current climate is ripe for adding or adjusting offers and services to help your clients and increase appointments. For example:

  • Holistic wellness packages focused on supercharging your immune system
  • Makeup sessions aimed at professionals who find themselves stuck in Zoom meetings morning til night
  • Psychologist consults offered virtually for couples struggling with quarantine {or the after effects}

Study your target clientele & your competition, then look for the holes. How can your business fill in the gaps to deliver a standout service?

7. Go above and beyond for your clients

The beating heart of every business is its clients. How can you show up in a surprising way that’ll knock their socks off? Sit back for a moment and think about what businesses you support. I’d be willing to bet, they know exactly how to wow you. Like the “good morning, Kelly” you receive each morning at your local coffee shop or the handwritten thank-you note popped inside your latest online purchase.

These personal touches are what turn clients into raving fans.

It might seem easier to do when you’re selling a product rather than a service, after all, most stores take your personal details (name, address, email) but it’s not.

Whether you’re a stylist or a massage therapist, you spend hours speaking to your clients… intimately. Those seemingly insignificant details like:

  • Your clients’ kids’ names
  • The in’s and out’s of the big project they just landed
  • Training stories about marathon they finally signed up for

All this juicy info can be jotted down in the client notes section of your online scheduling app for future reference. You can use those details to delight your clients in a way that’s fitting for your business, whether it’s:

  • Sending out a birthday card
  • Giving a discount on your client’s tenth appointment (as a surprise)
  • Picking up on past conversations at the next appointment

8. There are no *days off* for client service

how to build a business that stands out with beavis and butthead

Negative feedback spreads like wildfire through social media and word of mouth. Bad reviews stick in the heads of potential clients far longer than positive feedback. That’s why there’s no taking a *day off* when it comes to great client service isn’t an option.

A hard pill to swallow may come when your business is asked to accept a *no fault* mistake. When that time arrives, it’ll be up to you to decide what your values as a business are.

One piece of insight:

Clients prefer businesses that own up to their mistakes and take the necessary steps to correct them. You’ll often find when handled correctly, you gain your most loyal clients out of those *hard to handle* situations.

Related → The 5 Reasons Client Satisfaction Matters

9. Use social media to build a standout business

Social media engagement should go beyond the promotion of your brow bar or holistic nutrition & wellness clinic. Inject your business into your clients’ everyday lives and routines.

Think about it this way. If your best friend is looking for a new colorist—are you going to point her in the direction of a random {albeit talented} person you follow—or the balayage specialist who takes the time to respond to your comments & shares regular updates on their shop?

Your business is based on relationships, so communicating on all channels, whether it’s social or IRL matters. Here are several ways you can share how rad your business is with potential clients:

  • Build strategic business partnerships to promote each other
  • Host events or classes {online now… in person post-COVID}
  • Create a YouTube channel to show off your personality & your talent
  • Live stream from your shop to show what’s happening behind the scenes.
  • Work with relevant influencers to reach their audience {they have access to an audience you might not be able to connect with}
  • Get creative. It doesn’t have to be all about advertising or promotion. Share your work, interesting ideas, and pieces that get you excited

10. Charge your value {don’t focus on price}

People will pay for excellent service. $400 for a haircut with Jen Aniston’s stylist? Sign me up… { ← I’ll look like her afterward right?!}

As a talented provider of service, whether that’s balayage, brow magic, physiotherapy, or personal training—you need to set yourself apart by showing off your high-quality work and unique expertise. But most importantly, you need to price it accordingly.

To be crystal clear. If you undervalue what you do, others will too. You’ll also drive down the price of work within your industry. See Upwork, Kijiji, and Fiverr as examples of competing on price over value. It’s a race to the bottom strategy.

The losers? Service providers.

You can look at it from another perspective as well. If you were looking to have knee surgery—would you feel safe choosing the doctor offering 30% off for first-time patients?

Research the market and charge competitively for the valuable service your shop provides. Now, that’s not to say you can’t run special offers, promotions, or discounts {unless you’re a doctor. Don’t. Just don’t}. Just do it thoughtfully. Make the promotions a perfect fit for your business, clients, and brand. As they say: Just because everyone else is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s right for you.

11. Approach business differently than your competition

man in front of a standout mural

If you find yourself struggling *how* to build a business that stands out… start by studying the best. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel, you need to tweak it.

What barber shops, nail salons, or physical therapy clinics are jam-packed with clients? Investigate what they’re doing well and see how you can emulate them—with your spin on it.

The biggest mistake most businesses make is looking at the top dog in their field and mimicking them to the letter… expecting the same results. That’s unlikely. Why? Because they’ve already cornered that market. You need to find the small things that make your business special.

Think outside the box.

Give a shout-out to your “client transformation of the week” on Insta or send flowers monthly to a loyal massage therapy client. Your *thing* doesn’t need to be huge, it just needs to be missing from your main competition.

For example, say you’re a brow bar in Pasadena and all the other shops take appointments by pen & paper, Instagram DMs, or email. Because of this, bookings are getting lost & clients aren’t getting responses for 48 hours.

Your brow bar can implement online appointment scheduling in less than an hour.

Now your clients can book online via your website, social media, or online booking page without contacting your shop. You’ve set yourself apart, used your clients’ mindset to make life easier for them (and you), and made it a no-brainer for them to transfer loyalty to your business.

12. Go narrow to build a business that stands out

You’ve heard the adage: When you try to serve everyone, you serve no one. And it makes sense. But when you’re staring at a calendar with far too many open appointment slots, it can feel hard to put into practice.

But let’s be clear. Niching down is especially true with service-based businesses. If you’re wasting resources on trying to attract everyone… everyone is gonna scroll right on by.

To build a business that stands out, you need to grab your ideal client by the collar and shout in their face: I’m the custom tattoo shop for you… and here’s why. You do that through branding, storytelling, imagery, and a consistent presence online.

13. Build a buzz around your in-shop experience

How can you get your business to stand out? A raving posse of loyal fans.

If you want to drive new appointments to your business in droves, stellar reviews and word-of-mouth referrals are the way to do it. Even if we don’t care to admit it, we’re all influenced by others {friends or not}. It’s how we make most of our decisions… especially choosing a new business to patronage.

Getting new reviews is simple. Ask.

Send your clients a thank you email after their hair appointment with a link to review, or ask your *three-times-a-week* personal training client if he can refer you to friends. To sweeten the deal, offer a discount on your clients’ next service for leaving a review or sending a referral.

Depending on your business (ex. nail salon vs. psychotherapy) the medium might shift. The likelihood of your therapy client shouting you out on Insta is low, whereas, those newly decorated talons are bound to get shared. Give it a think and plow ahead.

14. Show off those trophies

Who didn’t love winning trophies as a kid? Well, now you can enter competitions, take part in conventions, or sign up for courses to upgrade your skillset. All to proudly display your accomplishments for your new and old clients to see.

Get those awards up on your walls, on your social media, and shout it from the rooftop. Winning an award is not only a boost to your ego, but it’s a great marketing tool that gets your name out there and drives new appointments to your shop. Not to mention, awards & certifications tend to hold their value over time. { ← case in point, the first place ribbon you have from your 7th-grade relay. Still winning}

15. Build your business from the inside out

the big lebowski's "the dude" in the car
^^^ are your employees this psyched on the way to work??

As mentioned, word-of-mouth is one of the greatest forms of marketing. It comes with built-in trust. So, who better to spread the word about how fabulous your barbershop is than the barbers who work there?

Start from the inside out. Create a culture that’ll attract & keep top talent, while encouraging your staff to spread the word about how amazing it is to be part of your team! Here are a few things to think about:

  • Ask yourself: What can I do to make this shop/office somewhere my team wants to come Monday morning?
  • What processes can I put in place to make life easier for my team? {ex. Online scheduling, direct deposit}
  • Does my staff always come first?

Work from within to create a culture your team is genuinely excited to be part of. Your clients will pick up on your shop vibe the moment they walk through the door… positive or negative. Plus, happy team members are well-performing, willing to go above and beyond & are more likely to take personal responsibility when they feel respected.

If in doubt…manage your mindset

Of course, running a business is stressful, if it wasn’t… everyone would be doing it!

And 2020… well, after hearing *murder hornets* we’re officially on a break.

So, as you work to stabilize, turn around, or build a business that stands out you gotta maintain a positive mindset. Not in a fluffy kinda way, or a pretend everything is fine when your appointment calendar is empty kinda way.

We’re talking about waking up every day knowing you’ve got the skills to bring about positive outcomes. And knowing that no matter how many obstacles get thrown at you, you don’t give up. EVER.

With a kick-ass team by your side, you’ll keep doing better, improving your services, and bringing your business to the place it needs to be—standing heads and shoulders above the rest.