It's hard to stand out if you aren't selective about who, how and why you serve. Without a clear point of difference, your customers will focus on the only thing that they can be sure of: cost. This, unfortunately, is why so many SMEs end up competing on price instead of carving out a lucrative niche.
But what if you're just starting out or buffeted by averse economic circumstances? How can you afford to be selective when you're struggling to make ends meet?
The simple answer is that you can't. When the writing is on the wall, you've got to do whatever you can to scrub it off. That may include taking any customers you can get. However, while you're doing that, there are three things that you can do to prevent this from becoming a perpetual fight for survival:
#1 Strive for better
The problem with prioritising survival is that “doing whatever it takes” can quickly become “doing whatever is easiest”. If you're serious about growing your business and building a better future, then don't settle for less even if your immediate circumstances demand short term pragmatism.
#2 Pursue your ideal customers
Taking any business you can get right now doesn't mean that you should stop looking for the customers that you really want. Don't succumb to the temptation of believing that it will easier to get better customers later. If anything, it will be harder because you'll be so busy servicing mediocre or bad clients.
#3 Focus on what you can control
There's not much that you can do about COVID, currency exchange rates, national economic policy, or other macro factors. However, while you may not have much external control, you do have almost total internal control. You can change your marketing, pricing, expenditure, or other critical drivers at any time.
Don't wait for outside circumstances to turn around for you. That's like standing in the rain, getting wetter and wetter, while hoping that the clouds clear soon.