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ryan caligiuri

With Small Business Week coming up, it might be a good time to recognize one of the most exciting aspects of creating a small business: An entrepreneur can choose the direction of a company right from the get-go and doesn't need to follow the rules dictated by the status quo.

Challenging the status quo can be its own challenge but also very rewarding. There is no reason to do what others do: Using strategies to break the mould and create something innovative captures the true spirit of entrepreneurship.

How to challenge the status quo? Here are five ways to build something different, exceptional, and worth talking about.

1. Develop a compelling competitive advantage

The idea is simple: Creating your competitive advantage is about delivering a new level of value that your marketplace is not accustomed to receiving.

Find ways to bring more value to customers by offering greater benefits or more distinctive results than what the marketplace is used to or what is currently available; give customers an advantage they need or don't already have; and remove more risks from any downside or unfavourable result.

Begin by asking your customers what their biggest problems are that seem to be going unaddressed. Ask, too, what issues they're having with current providers and what would need to happen to make them happy.

Then create an offering, product or service that delivers on the answers to all those questions, and exceeds the expectations of the marketplace.

2. Tell a better story

Stories may seem fluffy at first, but we pay attention to good ones, especially those that motivate us to take action or inspire us to achieve or attain a greater result.

A story could be about a problem and how it got resolved using your product or about how a product or service was developed.

Whatever story you decide to tell, make sure it's relevant and resonates with those who hear it.

If it's told with enough detail and resonates effectively, it should have a profound effect, either motivating listeners to take action or solidifying their decision to trust you.

For example, Schlitz Brewing Co. told a story about its beer-making process that focused on fundamentals and tried to demonstrate the quality of its product over others. The story completely transformed the company and made the marketplace flock to its products.

3. Change the game

Changing the game means that you take normal products or services and find ways to transform them and test the limits of what the marketplace expects.

It's about creating something faster, bigger, smaller, colder, hotter or safer than what the marketplace expects.

By building something that isn't widely accepted as normal, you break the mould and attract the attention of the marketplace.

One product that changed the game was Chunky's Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse Burger . The Texas-based restaurant's burger, containing four of the hottest items on the planet, claims to be the spiciest burger ever made.

Fedex's overnight delivery service was another game changer. Two other examples of great products changing the game are the Hummer and the Smart Car.

4. Make the shift

Making the shift is about changing an element of your business, such as pricing, payment structure or the quality of talent.

If an entrepreneur was to start a professional services firm, everyone would expect the same thing: good service, skilled, knowledgeable professionals and, for the most part, paying fees on a per hour or project basis. That would be the status quo.

But what if instead of getting compensated on a per hour basis, the model shifted to a performance-based payment scheme or subscription or membership? Would that make doing business that entrepreneur more favourable? Would it make it more cost-effective for customers?

The only way to find out is to test it. Introduce a shift to a small segment of your clients and gather feedback. If it's favourable, you might have hit a home run that you'll want to roll out to the rest of the marketplace.

You only need to look to Netflix Inc.'s monthly subscription for movie rentals or Domino's promise of pizza delivery in 30 minutes or it's free to see what making a shift can do.

5. Break the marketing model

Chances are that most companies in your industry are all marketing the same way, using the same channels, tactics and resources.

Break that model by stepping outside of your field and examining what other companies in different industries do to market themselves. In many cases, you will find new ideas, creative insights and innovative approaches that you can integrate into your overall marketing plan.

Begin by going to a Chamber of Commerce networking event and ask attendees what their companies are doing to market their products and services. You will often

walk away with one or two great ideas that you haven't thought of before. They might also be methods of communication your marketplace is not accustomed to and, because they are different, they may take notice.

All of these concepts require bold thinking and an entrepreneur who is not afraid to use strategies to challenge the status quo.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Ryan Caligiuri is a Winnipeg-based marketing specialist who believes that many organizations are wasting their money on ineffective marketing tactics, that many professionals and students feel lost because their actions don't translate into positive results, and that all three groups are too comfortable following the status quo. He is driven by the desire to refocus their efforts to resurrect the impact of marketing.

Engage with Mr. Caligiuri on Twitter.

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