You’re opening a business. This is one of the most exciting times of your professional life. Your dream of becoming your own boss, of calling the shots and of building your dream career are all coming to fruition.

Of course, you know that to keep the dream going, you must earn a living with your business, and a comfortable one. And one fear that many new entrepreneurs and service based small business owners share is that they won’t be able to outpace the competition.

It’s true that it’s a competitive market out there. While there are more and more companies taking it online and opting for an internet-business-only model, there are still a lot of local businesses in the market. And each local business near you in the same market is competition.

So how can you stand out from the competition with your service business?

Well, there are a few things you can do right now – before you even open up shop – to make sure you gain that competitive edge over the competition, so you don’t lose out on serving those clients.

1. Who Your Dream Client Is

Before you even choose the very name of your business, one of the most important things to do, especially if you want to get an edge over the competition, is determine exactly who you’d like to serve.

Who is your dream client? What traits, demographics, and beliefs do they share?

Knowing this will help you define who your most fierce competition will be – those businesses who target the same type of client – which will help you know what you’re up against.

But the most important reason why this is something you must consider before opening your business is that having a clear and specific definition of the type of client you’d like to target will help you brand yourself to appeal strongly to that type of client.

For example, if you were opening a hair salon that is targeting a young, female clientele who is in touch with their girly side and enjoys being pampered, it would be far more compelling for that client base to visit a salon that uses fun, bright, upbeat colors and uses trendy language in their marketing material. Compare this with a hair salon that uses timeless, classic colors and uses refined language, and you’d be attracting vastly different clientele.

2. What Makes You Unique?

In marketing, there is a term that is thrown around a lot:

Unique Selling Proposition.

A unique selling proposition, or a USP, is a way of asking the very important question:

What makes your business unique?

Or, put in a more simple way: Why should anybody decide to do business with you rather than the dozens (even hundreds) of other businesses out there?

Apple’s USP is their cutting edge technology. Walmart’s USP is their pricing model. What is yours?

It’s important to know the answer to this question before you open your business, so you can stand out from the competition.

When a potential client is given four options for which massage therapy business they could go to, they’re going to choose the one that jumps out at them the most for being different. So spend some time thinking this question over before you open your doors. It will serve you well in the long run!

3. What Principles Guide Your Business?

When you open the doors in your business, tough decisions start rolling in.

You have to decide whether to give refunds, how you’re going to deal with grouchy customers, what types of investments you’ll make, when (if ever) you’ll give discounts – among various other decisions.

These decisions are made far easier when you have some core principles to guide you through them. Setting these guiding principles before you start your business will help you maintain a consistent delivery standard, which helps give you an edge over the competition who don’t have such standards in place.

4. What Problem Do You Solve?

Every business needs to solve a problem.

If you’re opening a salon, you solve the problem of your client needing a haircut, or a different color, or even a self-esteem boost.

If you’re opening a massage therapy practice, you’re solving the problem of stress, tension, and muscle pain.

It’s easy to pinpoint the exact problem that your business solves, but not many businesses actually define and describe the problem to their target market when in their marketing.

Jay Abraham said: “If you can define the problem better than your target customer, they will automatically assume you have the solution.”

What sounds more compelling to you? The massage therapy practice that advertises:

“Massage therapy from professional Registered Massage Therapists”

Or, the practice that advertises:

“Busy mom? Melt that stress and tension away with a one-hour massage”?

While the last one leaves a lot to be desired as far as defining the problem, it’s far closer to the problem than the first example. By pinpointing exactly what problem your business solves and actually talking about it will give you an amazing competitive edge over your competition every single time.

If you consider these four things before opening your business, you’ll have already gained a competitive advantage over the competition.

And the moment you open your doors, you won’t have a worry in the world.