Do you like sourdough bread? I am a big fan of sourdough. Sourdough is believed to have originated in ancient Egypt around 1,500 BC. This ancient method of leavening is much easier to digest, protects the gut flora and doesn’t cause a blood sugar spike the way normal bread does.
What does sourdough bread have to do with business? Hang on, I’ll get there.
Four years ago, one of my childhood friends, my soul sister, opened a sourdough bakery. From bread to cakes, every product was made with sourdough. Back then, with her entrepreneurial passion for her product, she told me about all the biological benefits and converted me to a proper sourdough consumer.
Last year, when I was in Istanbul for a speaking gig at a mumpreneurs’ event, she came to watch me, and we spent the rest of the day together. She told me the business was struggling. She was struggling. Her bread sales were not enough to cover the costs and she had to add side products (lunch offers, etc) which defeated the purpose of everything, and created even more hassle and expenditure.
While updating me on her life during our walk, we passed by a very trendy looking bakery, that specialised in sourdough. She pointed and said: “Look at them, it has been only 2 years since they opened their first bakery and now, they have 8 of them all over Istanbul”.
Of course, me being me, we went in, and bought more stuff than we could ever consume. In the meantime, I asked her: “Why do you think I should buy your product over theirs?” She mumbled and mumbled, but she could not give me a clear answer.
After eating my body weight in bread, mini pizza and cakes, the verdict was that my friend’s products were definitely better. On the other hand, her prices were about 20% lower. Moreover, she worked her butt off. Honestly, from 4 am till 8pm everyday she was in her bakery. So why the hell was other this bakery flying while my friend’s bakery was suffering?
There were some logistics and funding issues to start with… she didn’t have a big investment and her bakery was not as well located as it could be, but there was something else, something more essential that I could feel from the start of her company. Something she lacked but others had: the soul of the business. Her business did not stand for something that belonged solely to her business. That ‘thing’ that was so special, so unique that others could not copy easily. Her difference, her unfair advantage.
For the other bakery they had a clear unfair advantage and it was seeping through every aspect of the business. The owners were two architects. They had used their expertise to create an “ambiance” that was unique. People didn’t go there in the beginning to buy bread; they went there because they were attracted by the ambiance. It was rustic, rough; they used primary materials in the shop. They created that ambiance; a design; a brand; a voice that was as rustic, as natural and as authentic as the sourdough bread. The soul of their business, their unfair advantage was the brand, which permeated every aspect of their presence.
The thing is, my friend had many unfair advantages that she could use to create traction in her business; but unfortunately, you can’t use your unfair advantage until you can name it. And because she hadn’t named it, she could not differentiate in the market, thus she could not attract any particular demand.
As solopreneurs and microbusiness owners, defining our unfair advantage might seem a narcissistic exercise, having said that it is the only way to build an audience who purposefully choose us and it is also your magic wand to close deals.
So, tell me friend, what is your unfair advantage?
No, “I am reliable, trustworthy, organised, punctual,” and so on are not accepted as “unfair advantage 😉
So, if you want to find out what your real edge is, here is a little guide to help you ask the right questions.
The 5 Ps of the unfair advantage for solopreneurs and micro-business owners:
1. The Person
This is you as an entrepreneur, the owner of the business and most likely the main service provider of the business. More often than not, if you are a solopreneur, the unfair advantage of your business might be heavily related to you. This can be in many different aspects:
A) Your credibility – related to your education or background, your accreditations or certificates or simply to third party backing,
B) Your knowledge and expertise, which might be supported by your experience in your field,
C) Your charisma as the business owner: this can be related to your personality, your communication, skills or your values.
Looking into these different parameters, you should not only look at where your strengths are but also, what your business line and your customers will look for? If you are a mortgage advisor, with lengthy experience in the market, proving your expertise and knowledge will give you more advantage than your personal values. Whereas, if you are a life coach, your charisma might be more helpful.
2. The Product
By product, I mean what you put out there as an offering, whether that is a service or physical product. From a pure product and service perspective, as a solopreneur or microbusiness owner, unless you have a very unique offering, you might need to look into this aspect as a global experience that your customers go through with your brand.
What kind of experience will attract them and how does your brand relate to that? For example, as a financial advisor, if your ideal customer is a C suite corporate employee, your brand experience should be strongly “professional” as opposed to a designer who is working with start-ups and can afford to choose a lighter and funnier brand experience.
3. The Price
Although I am not a fan of price advantage for solopreneurs and microbusiness owners, you might have actually found a system that allows you to cut your prices without losing your profit (net revenue). If this is the case, especially in crowded markets, this can create a huge advantage.
4. The Process
When I say process, I don’t mean the internal processes and systems that you put in place to make business grow stronger. The process here means the customer journey that your clients go through, from being a lead to becoming a supportive customer of your business.
In the solopreneurship and micro-business world, the journey for the customer is in general overlooked and not designed properly. However, whether you sell a product or you have long-term projects creating a well-defined, customer centric and well-communicated process for their journey might give you a huge market advantage.
I once had the luxury to work with an osteopath who, from the minute I contacted her, described every stage and possible outcome of my treatment to me. Unlike many other healthcare professionals who lack patient communication skills, this osteopath was so thorough about me being part of that healing process that it set her apart. Since then (over the last few years) I have referred more than 10 clients to her.
5. The People
People are your market audience. Some solopreneurs or microbusiness owners do such a great job in their niching process that their audience become their unfair advantage.
I once knew a personal trainer who was specialised in preparing people with back injuries for endurance challenges (like marathon triathlon). How many personal trainers have you met who target such a specific audience? Imagine if you had a back injury and you wanted to run a marathon, wouldn’t just call him without a second thought? This type of highly precise niching helps you become the expert in that field and also creates the personal unfair advantage by increasing your expertise.
Again, from a microbusiness ownership point of view, while looking at your unfair advantage, you should always have your ideal customer and their problem in mind. Your unfair advantage has to sweet talk to that problem and to them, so it becomes a real market advantage for your business.
We cover the topic of “Unfair Advantage” in our Foundation for Business Growth Course with much more detail and examples. Our guiding webinars and coaching sessions, combined with our business worksheets, are here to help our members work on defining their unfair advantage and creating the difference in their market. Don’t forget you can still be part of our AWEsome community of female founders for FREE, including access to our FREE Special Crisis Management Course.