Wednesday 22 March 2023

Help My Business Get Noticed… Please!

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21 March 2023 - At The Banks - BCCR

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EXPAT FOCUS – With so much despair in the business community of Costa Rica and all of Latin America since covid, Matt Wilson (Tamarindo), felt a healthy dose of advice would be welcomed.

Matt writes, “We have noticed that Costa Rica is the land of imitation / not innovation and therefore many business Owners follow other competing enterprises with the same tired business model and practices from 1975. Nobody seems to strive to be the best in their respective category but rather to copy a competitor in a bid over lowest price and race toward average”.

Here is Matt’s article:

Help My Business Get Noticed….Please!

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Proven advice from a couple who found success by achieving a TripAdvisor rating #1 in less than 5 months from opening their restaurant out of 922 competitors. (Pre-covid)

Do you have or want to open a business, eco-lodge, real estate office, tour operation, yoga retreat, Airbnb, restaurant, or service? Are you really ready to do whatever it takes to get noticed? Are you ready to stand naked in the middle of the road with your hair on fire to get noticed?….okay maybe not that far but close?


  • Differentiation from competition
  • Identify your target demographic
  • Brand development
  • Marketing strategy
  • Research / due diligence: Location, Products or services, Price points, Need vs want, Expectations

Differentiation from the competition is the single most important strategy that we can suggest. Why and how is your business authentically different than your competitors?

I know….you think your place is beautiful, you have a really cool name style, you think the location is amazing, you think your products or services are great or you naively think that you have ‘no’ competition. Not so fast. What makes your business remarkably unique from all other competitors? ‘Nothing’ is what you are mumbling to yourself about now if you are being really truthful.

Finally, a breakthrough in your thinking that has been needed for a while we would assume.

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Let’s look at the root of the word ‘remarkable’. What ‘is’ the root of the word? “To remark about”. So let us ask you again. What is remarkable about your business so that your customers will be encouraged to remark about it to others? If you cannot come up with at least 3-5 bullet points then your business will be strained right from the start. If you are not completely alone in your business category then you will be lumped in with your competitors to fight over the lowest price all racing toward average.

If that’s “good enough” perspective works for you then you can stop reading the rest of this article?

Let us tell you a quick story about cows and the circus to demonstrate the depth of thinking for you to create differentiation with your business. You probably have witnessed cows on the side of the road your whole life correct? “Never noticed them really” are the normal responses we regularly receive.

Why would you notice them any more than trees or fences or billboards right? But what if one day you are driving along and you see a purple cow? What would you do? You likely would slam on the breaks of your vehicle and pull over to capture an image of the purple cow. Why? To share it with your friends.

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To ‘REMARK’ about it. Your business is no different. (That example is from Seth Godin’s book, Purple Cow) Why would anybody talk about your business? What is remarkable about your business that sets it apart from the herd of competitors.

Another good example is the circus which has existed on earth for at least 2,000 years. The modernish circus as most of us know has existed for at least 150 years with the animals, clowns, and jugglers. Fascinating entertainment as a child but not so much in a fast paced, instant gratification world anymore.

The circus as they say has been done to death. That is until Canadian entrepreneurs reimagined the circus. Founded in1984 by former street performers, its theatrical, character-driven approach and the absence of performing animals helped define Cirque du Soleil as the contemporary circus that it remains today. This enterprise is utterly unique in comparison to any other circus before or since and worth remarking about to others. (Wikipedia – Cirque du Soleil)

So now that you are informed of purple cows and the circus without animals what are you reimagining for your business enterprise? What can you do to outthink your competition and set your business apart from the herd?

The days of good enough will NOT work anymore. There are too many competitors that will work longer, harder, and less expensively than you. Your only real choice is to differentiate completely or compete at lowest price like the rest.

Identify your target demographic

What do you mean identify my target demographic? All people are my target demographic correct? WRONG! Most are NOT your demographic. Are you targeting Locals? Foreigners? North Americans? Europeans? Teenagers? Parents? Seniors? Married? Single? Children? If your products or services do not align with a specific demographic then you are no different than all of your competition, fighting over the lowest price and racing toward average.

Think very hard in contemplating your ideal customer type and sell to them specifically. You will obviously attract other customers along the way but you will not sway them as easily as you can your specific demographic. What are your ideal customers looking for?

Quality products? Inexpensive products? Speed of service? Convenience? A specific activity? A specific area? Relaxation? Discovery?

Safety? Instagram image? It is your job to ascertain who is your best customer profile and target them like it’s your full-time job, because it is.

Brand development will become increasingly important when your customers start singing your praises. If you have not established yourself as a ‘brand’ it will be almost impossible for your customers to remember your name or web address to share with others.

It starts with a very clever name style, logo, tagline and product or service offerings different then most. Your name style and logo must resonate with your target demographic or one of two things will happen.

  1. You will scare off your primary customer
  2. You will be perceived as something totally different to your desired customer.

Your name style must be easy to say in almost any language or imagine the consequences of somebody saying your name style to a stranger to look up online ‘if’ it is mispronounced because it is too difficult to say. They will never find you to research a visit to your business. The name should be clever and not in any way childish unless you sell to children.

Your logo as well should resonate with your target customer base on some level. Again make sure it is not too busy, cluttered or childish because you think it looks good. Ask a large sampling of people who are NOT your friends or family for their feedback before proceeding with launching your name style or logo. Take your ego out of the equation and listen to your sample audience’s advice.

We have witnessed many elementary name styles selected by children of family members and logos that look like a group of 15 years old’s thought that it looked cool. Resist the urge to get family members involved in a financially sensitive area such as brand development as it is too important to your financial future.

Your tagline is your mantra and should be as close to reality as you can back up on a daily basis. What your tagline stands for will resonate with your target demographic as well as with your employees. Make it real and make it a promise to yourself and your customer base.

Your product or service offering must also be uniquely different than your competition. Not everybody needs another hemp bracelet, beach bag, ATV tour, yoga lesson, surf lesson, hotel room, or real estate pitch unless it is the least expensive in the whole country or creatively unique in every way.

Marketing strategy is the act of making your brand message heard on a regular and consistent basis. Instagram, Facebook, Google ads, billboards, TripAdvisor, blog, vlog, special events, sponsorships, give-aways, coupons, discounts, logo’d products and containers, etc. This IS the hardest part of modern business, to stand out from the noise of competition. Your potential customers are numb to the noise and confusion of choice in the world today. Writing content and posting on a regular basis is a chore and not fun if writing is not your strong suit or creative content escapes you.

However, it must be performed as a full-time job with as much effort and enthusiasm as your core competency of your business enterprise. Strive to give away as much credible ‘free’ content as possible on a regular basis. In other words become an expert in your postings and make your postings as interesting as possible to a wide audience with vivid imagery and clever text. Offer worthwhile advice when possible to engage potential customers to come back to your site or business location.

What are your plans to stand out from your competitors so that your unique selling proposition (USP) has a chance to grab their attention?

  • Research / due diligence
  • Location
  • Products or services
  • Price points
  • Need vs want
  • Expectations

Your business location is critical to your long-term success and if it is not correct it will cause issues with your potential growth strategy.

Many people select a location based on what they can affordably purchase or rent within an arbitrary budget. However, location is key to attracting your primary customer whether online or a physical brick and mortar location.

If you choose what you can afford today and you are wildly successful how will you accommodate additional customers? Granted you must start somewhere to vet your concept and to iron out any issues that will arise. You absolutely can drive traffic to your small out-of-the-way location if you offer a superior product or service but your growth potential will be hindered considerably. Many business owners do not offer anything superior but rather rely on a great location thinking that will lead to massive success.

This approach never works as everything must work in concert from products to pricing and from customer service to superior product offerings. Always consider your desired location that you are assured will work over what you think you can afford.

Products and service offerings should be based on what is or is not found within your target location. Do you offer a superior experience to your targeted demographic or are you simply selling the next widget like everybody else? Just because you want your store to sell some arbitrary item does NOT make it a good idea.

Do you really believe your genius is the only one to think of this product or service idea? Maybe but not likely. If your idea requires importing a product or service maybe it does not pencil out on your spreadsheet or enslaves you to your wholesale provider. Are you the only operation in your community or geographical location and therefore you think your business is somehow unique?

Look for holes in your market that can be massively improved with local products or service offerings. Find ways to create exceptional value and experience for your customers and your business enterprise will be remarkable.

Price is always a sensitive issue for most. If you do not price with a large enough margin you will ultimately fail. However, if your price is too high and the customer experience is too low you will not sell enough to keep in business for long.

Think about Pricemart / Cosco they sell on a very small margin but to millions of customers. The flip side are Gulfstream jets or luxury brands that sell to a very small select audience at a massive price point. The only authentic way to compete at the small/low end of the market is through differentiation as discussed previously.

If you can capture your audience/customer attention with an exceptional user experience you will not need to be the lowest price to win against your competition. If you make your user experience so unique it will not be as sensitive to price as it will be to your competition. This is the competitive advantage that you should strive to replicate and win big with your concept.

Is your product or service offering based on a need or a want? That is, do your primary customers need these items or services, or do they want them? The big difference is like gasoline, toothpaste or toilet paper. All these items are needed at some point by everybody. Now, beer, pizza, and surf lessons are wants.

One group of items you must afford and the other group not so much. Where does your business fit into those two categories? Can you convert a potential customer to ‘feel’ that their want is a need? Of course, you can but again it requires a shockingly unique level of differentiation. If you flew to Anaheim California for any reason and discovered Disneyland is very nearby would your enthusiasm rise from “I want to visit someday” to, “I need to visit on this trip”.

Automatically a want becomes a need when in Anaheim because of the remark-ability of opportunity. The same is true for your business product or service if your USP is incredible and remarkable. The secret is to make your unique selling proposition such a remarkable user experience that it becomes a NEED when presented instead of just a want.

For example: Our restaurant became #1 on TripAdvisor within 5 months and most North American tourists sought us out for the user experience based solely on those ratings. Our trip advisor rank drove customer traffic to our forgettably small start up location by the hoards when our competitors struggled to obtain an audience. Why you may ask? We offered a remarkable user experience not previously presented in our region of the country.

What are your potential customer’s expectations? Are they expecting remarkable or just another average experience? If your potential customers do not have high expectations of what to expect from your business how are you going to attract a consistent audience to remark about your products or services in the future.

The days of posting a sign that states, “open for business” falls way short of what is required to attract an audience to your business operation. What products or services are you offering that are utterly remarkable? What unique selling proposition have you created that your competitors are envious of and your customers cannot wait to experience.

This is much more difficult than anticipated as most business Owners start by offering what ‘they’ want to sell or provide. That is, they have not researched the market to verify the idea as good or bad or as profitable or just a hobby. Don’t be so naive as to purchase a business that enslaves you because you failed at your due diligence. Many aspects of business are not going to be fun however it should not feel like drudgery to arrive at your business everyday either.

If you are not attracting the volumes of customers to achieve your level of profitability desired it will feel like drudgery we promise. You must strive to exceed your potential customer’s user experience in every aspect of their engagement with your business. Do it differently and do it better and you will win with your business operation.

In closing, we have coincidentally made many acquaintances in the tour operations business in Costa Rica and we are regularly asked by all of them, “What can I do differently to stand out”.

Our answer always includes the differentiation from competition speech. We ask them to think as hard as they can to think of the most remarkable user experience a tour operator could provide. We then suggest ‘jet packs!’ “What? Are you crazy, I can’t afford jet packs and our guests would kill themselves”.

We find that everybody thinks conventionally when presented with a problem and that in itself ‘is’ the problem. Never limit your thinking to a potential solution no matter how crazy it sounds on the surface. Jet packs are not the solution but merely a starting point conversation of arriving at a USP to differentiate their tour operations from the herd. What could they provide that is unique and affordable?

How about a small generator and frozen margarita machine trailered behind an ATV on a tour stop?

Would a fresh made frozen margarita impress you on a tour in the middle of the jungle or ocean? Would that be memorable and unexpected, worthy of remarking about? The short answer is, Hell yes!

The same limiting ideas about increasing customer engagement to your restaurants, hotels, tours and shops are the same. You must think of what can be improved so dramatically in your offerings that it is worthy of remarking about. Only then will you have achieved enough distance between you and your competitors to relax long enough to think up the next great idea.

We wish you the most success in your business enterprise and look forward to you sharing what ultra-creative thinking on your part has turned your business around.

Matt & Lani Wilson

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