Why Small Businesses Should Study the Winners in Other Industries

Transcript of my newsletter from 13th June.

If you prefer to listen:

Last week I talked about building the resilience of your business in preparation for tougher times ahead.

Here’s something else to think about: it’s the perfect time to zig while everyone else is zagging.

That is: look at your competitors to see what they are doing and do something completely different, even counter-intuitive.

With few exceptions, businesses rarely do something that’s counter to common practice in their industry.

In fact, they usually resist it.

Here’s an example:

Years ago, when I was living in the UK, I worked for American Express Card.

That business is characterised by narrow margins, and it relies on high turnover to be profitable. As a result, it was very innovative in the use of technology and business process engineering to achieve its profitability targets.

After working for them for nearly 10 years, I left and went to work for an American merchant bank. Merchant banking is a high value, low turnover business, the polar-opposite of the Card business.

During the interview process they told me that the bank needed to modernise its operations. Specifically, it needed to make better use of technology because the operational processes were largely manually based.

And, indeed, they were: when I arrived they were hand-writing records of transactions into hard copy ledgers.

But the resistance I faced when attempting to introduce the concepts of business process analysis, re-engineering and automation, was so fierce that I departed after a year.

“That may work in the consumer card industry, but it won’t work here” was ringing in my ears as I left the premises.

It’s natural to look at your competitors and try to improve on what they are doing to gain an edge.

But rarely do businesses study a completely different industry, to examine what successful businesses are doing there, and to see if it can be adapted.

As small-business owners, we are in the perfect position to do that, because we are nimble, and we can make changes quickly.

It’s always good to stand back and look for improvements in your business from a distance.

But studying successful businesses in other industries will help you to break out of the tunnel vision that inevitably develops over time.

The first article I’ve linked to below explores this idea further, with examples, in a 20-minute podcast discussion between John Jantsch and Steve Miller. They talk about creating ‘un-copyable’ experiences.

This week’s links

In addition to the podcast on creating un-copyable experiences, I’ve also covered 5 reasons why your landing pages are not converting, how LinkedIn is down-ranking engagement-baiting posts, and why you need audience personas, not a buyer persona.

How to create un-copyable experiences

In this 20-minute podcast, John Jantsch and Steve Miller discuss how to create a memorable differentiator for your business, by analysing what successful businesses in other industries are doing, and adapting them to your industry:

How to create un-copyable experiences

5 Reasons your landing pages aren’t converting

Your landing pages are among the most important on your website – they should be getting visitors to sign up to your newsletter, join your membership site or buy your product or service.

If they aren’t doing their job as well as you’d like, there could be several reasons – Lakshmi Padmanaban discusses 5 of them:

5 Reasons why your landing pages are not converting

Engagement-baiting posts being down-ranked by LinkedIn

All the social media sites are increasingly updating their algorithms to keep users on their platform. I talked about how Instagram kills the reach of posts that contain links to external sites back here.

In this article, Andrew Hutchinson discusses three ways LinkedIn is penalising posts it considers to be ‘engagement baiting’, and shows what qualifies as engagement-baiting according to LinkedIn.

Increasing your reach increases your exposure and builds brand-recognition, so it’s as well to avoid some of these activities (and don’t include a link to an external site):

LinkedIn down-ranking engagement-baiting posts

You need audience personas, not a buyer persona

Four weeks ago, I wrote about why you need to focus on movements, not demographics.

Amanda Natividad expands on that idea in this article where she discusses ‘audience personas’ (as opposed to buyer personas).

Fun trivia: the example I gave in that earlier edition showing how the same demographics apply to both Ozzy Osbourne and Prince Charles, reappears in this article.

You need audience personas, not a buyer psersona


Just so you know: this email may contain affiliate links. If you click one of them, and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission as a ‘thank you’ from the product or service provider. I only link to products or services that I use, or have used, and am proud to be associated with. There is no additional cost to you.

Cool (and smart) people and businesses to follow

Smart, current and insightful tips from:

Shannon Looper

David & Dana

Useful resources

Free heatmap tracking for your website

Best ways to store your passwords

Fun flashback

‘A Day in the Life’, from The Beatles’ ‘Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ album, regularly appears in the list of the greatest songs of all time.

It was the first rock song to use an orchestra, and the images and clips in this video are from the orchestral session that The Beatles hosted, with members of the Rolling Stones, the Monkees and others as guests:

Struggling to grow your business?

Then this is for you:

Every week, I do deep-dive research into the mass of information on how to grow a successful small- or one-person business.

And I pick out detailed, current tips from experts in their fields. Not the same old stuff that’s been re-hashed countless times.

Join us, and you will be the first to receive the best business growth tips I find each week – in your inbox, every Monday:

Discover how to fire up your business growth:



Martin Malden

Share the love: