A clear point of difference is a must-have for any niche business. But if you fail to highlight that point of difference, your unique offering won’t make an impact.
This was the issue faced by Emma Petroulas, Mark Veran and Aaron Wallace, founders of Nudge Accounting, a new online accounting firm for start-ups and small businesses.
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When Petroulas first met Veran, it was as a university student working for a large accounting firm. Veran was her boss.
Neither of them thought they would be going into business together, along with Wallace, almost 10 years on.
And while Nudge Accounting knew exactly what it wanted to offer, it initially had trouble conveying this message to its target market.
“What we wanted to do was offer a solution to relieve one of the main pain points of small businesses, which is spending their nights having to do the books,” Petroulas says.
“We wanted to take away the whole thing of the small business owner coming home and doing their books. We wanted to offer an all-inclusive package done at a low monthly fixed price.”
As Petroulas explains, the business only encountered a problem after it had launched.
“We attended a whole lot of small business and start-up events. We would be in a room completely full of potential clients but we didn’t seem to be getting our message across and we couldn’t understand why,” she says.
“We have a whole lot of points of difference from traditional accountants. One is around the fact we do it all around small business… We’re saying no to the bigger clients.”
“We give small businesses their numbers each and every month, which is something traditional accountants don’t do.”
“We’re all under 35 but each of us has at least 10 years of experience in big accounting firms. Aaron and myself are also accounting lecturers at university.”
“We had all these different points of difference but, at these events, all these points weren’t getting through in our communication. We weren’t injecting them into our messaging.”
As a result, Petroulas says small businesses struggled to realise the value of the Nudge concept.
“Accounting really comes down to trust. We were bringing something new to the market, so small businesses and start-ups were left asking a lot of questions,” she says.
“We had a lot of small businesses asking, ‘What’s the catch?’ We didn’t spend the time talking about those differentiation factors.”
“We were so affordable and all looked relatively young, so people we met were thinking, how experienced are these guys? The other thing we found hard was the fact we’re accountants.”
“Talking about accounting and saying you’re an accountant is not the most interesting of topics, so it’s a lot harder to get people’s attention.”
“We realised all of this, and it really came to the forefront, when we attended a workshop during Small Business Month.”
During this workshop, the Nudge team was asked to describe its business. It delivered its usual line – it can “give the night back” to small businesses.
“Afterwards, we got chatting to the presenter and he asked us more questions about our business. This was when we starting chatting about our points of difference,” Petroulas says.
“He asked us why we didn’t inject these into our message. He made us realise the only way we could tell people about our points of difference was to communicate it to the audience.”
“What we learned is communication is a really big issue for us. How else do we get our name out there as small business owners?”
“From that, we had a session with a consultant to work on our message and we’re still working with him on that.”
“We regularly go to a whole lot of events and our message is really getting across a lot more effectively.”