I try to keep and eye on the broadband scene and subscribe to regular email newsletters from Thinkbroadband. Their April blog looks at how Superfast and Ultrafast broadband is rolling out across urban and rural Britain. http://blog.thinkbroadband.com/2016/04/uk-hits-90-superfast-coverage-but-what-about-rural-uk/
It shows Superfast and Ultrafast broadband moving ahead, but still a lot of pockets where much slower speeds are achievable. In Peggs Green, Leicestershire, we are able to get fibre courtesy of Superfast Leicestershire BDUK. However we’re so far from the fibre-enabled cabinet we are quoted a top speed of 12Mbps so hardly superfast, and not worth going to the hassle to upgrade from 5Mbps we get on ADSL. I guess we will go to fibre eventually as the ADSL performance is actually getting worse – more people using it for streaming TV and music – or a policy for downgrading ADSL – who knows?
It’s fairly easy for the bean-counters to cross off the exchanges and cabinets that are upgraded, but ignore the fact that even semi-rural businesses and residents are a long way from the cabinets and the distance issue over copper (or aluminium) still applies. Despite receiving frequent mailers from Virgin offering amazing speeds, they won’t drop a cable down our lane.
It’s definitely looking like a 2-speed society, not just for businesses – and there are a lot of small and micro-businesses in rural areas – but also for ordinary people. Website developers are increasingly assuming availability of bandwidth in their design with moving “slider” banners, full-page photos in the background and pop-ups. When I started web design in 1999 we considered background images out of the question with most people on dial-up connections. (Under 30-year-olds email me for an explanation of dial-up!)
There also seems to be a move to TV delivery via the internet. Look at BBC3. It certainly suits many people who don’t have a permanent or long-term residence and therefore have no TV-license, for commuters on public transport etc. and it’s great to be able to catch up on programmes you’ve missed, or to take control of your TV programme consumption via on-demand services like i-Player. However, people in rural areas with no or slow broadband and probably patchy mobile coverage too are going to be disadvantaged. Broadcast seems the logical delivery for a central service to many, distributed consumers rather than piping the same stuff, once for each active consumer, over a limited network. Despite the exponential increase in broadband speeds, this does come at a cost which the public / private arrangements used so far may not be able to sustain long-term.
Public policy-makers should not assume everyone has access to high-speed broadband however much it may suit their budgetary projections.
As some of you will know I spend a lot of time in our large, rampant, but lovely garden at Froggarts Cottage. You can read about our antics, achievements and utter failures at http://froggartscottagegarden.blogspot.co.uk.
It’s great fun but one of the necessary chores is attempting to remove the weeds. And what weeds! Couch grass, bindweed, ground elder…. You have to admire them. Despite our regular skirmishes, battles and outright war they continue to flourish. How?
All these weeds have a secret weapon – niche marketing. They grow in spaces where other plants don’t. You can pull up couch grass and ground elder but their main life support systems are UNDER THE GROUND where animals and gardeners can’t easily grub them out and where other, more compact plants don’t bother. And a second string to their bow is that they grow VERTICALLY, sneaking up through narrow gaps and in the case of bindweed using the support of established vertical plants and even couch grass. They grow in places where “ordinary” plants don’t. They don’t go with the flow – they find their niche and use their specialist skills to dominate and thrive. (I can see those sneaky white bindweed flowers laughing at me from the tops of the delphiniums!)
As small businesses and solo professionals we need to thrive in the jungle and the best way to do this is to specialise. Sometimes it can be a bit difficult to see how you are different from other psychotherapists, accountants, builders, whatever. You’ve done the same training and got the same qualifications. So what is it that makes YOU different and able to get the business you want against competition from all the others?
Your specialism might be:
- The type of clients you prefer to deal with – (vertical market)
- Location – do you do business within a small local area, or do you provide a nationwide service?
- Your particular way of doing things, your view of the world
- Service level you offer – time of day, 24/7, Saturday appointments, self-service…
- Particular jobs you have done successfully which are unusual
- Your friendly approach and contact throughout the project
- You like the colour blue
The way you go about your job is different from others just because it’s YOU offering the service. Think what differentiates you and what your niche market could be.
Ensure your website and other marketing material states quite clearly what makes you special. Your website designer should listen to what you want to achieve with your business and your website and create a site specifically for you rather than using a cookie-cutter template that assumes all therapists, builders, financial advisors etc are the same. Otherwise how can you be seen to be different and offering that special service to your niche market?