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Standing Out from the Crowd. Q&A with David Ryan of Rhino Africa Safaris

Critically analyse your unique selling proposition to avoid being just another ‘me too’ business.

Nadine Todd

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Every business owner thinks they’re offering something unique and ‘must have’ to their clients, but how many take the time to critically evaluate whether their assumptions hold true?

David Ryan, founder of Rhino Africa Safaris, isn’t interested in being ‘just another tour operator’ and his fanatical focus on his unique selling proposition (USP) almost a decade after he launched his niche business is proof of this dedication to standing out from the crowd.

How have you ensured growth over the past decade?

I’ve always believed that successful businesses innovate rather than imitate, and the only way to do that is by constantly asking yourself what sets you apart from your competitors. If you can’t answer that simple question, you’re probably a ‘me too’ business and your customers would just as easily do business with your competitors.

What are your USPs?

First, we create tailor-made packages that really take our clients and their needs into consideration. We link clients directly to service providers, which means better rates, and we’ve opened a number of different European language sites, as this is our core target market.

We also support a few worthy causes, and choose our service providers based on this ethos, and our most important USP is our online platform.

What’s so special about tailor-made packages? A lot of tour operators make this claim.

We built the business organically starting with one destination. We were prepared to grow slowly as long as it meant we could really live up to this claim. I wanted to make sure our consultants knew everything there was to know about each destination.

As the business grew, we branched out into a second, third and then multiple destinations, with each consultant having spent time in those areas and at our service providers. We can shape each itinerary around the client’s specific profile as a result, and because we also put clients directly in touch with providers, they receive great rates.

Do clients really care what causes you support?

Some don’t, but many consumers are becoming more aware of social and environmental challenges, and they’re choosing to spend their money with businesses that care about the communities they operate within.

Every provider we do business with has a programme to give back to the community, or runs a conservation project. In this way, our clients know that by supporting our business, they’re supporting worthwhile causes throughout southern Africa.

What’s your biggest competitive advantage?

The Internet. Back in 2004, when I was planning the business model, launching an online company was a risk, but I also believed there was a big opportunity. Building an online platform would keep my overheads low while allowing me to offer affordable tailor-made travel packages.

It would access the international market because it was online, and I was devising my entire marketing strategy around the fact that the Internet would soon experience enormous growth, and Google would introduce advertising — which it did through AdWords and its pay-per-click model.

Today everyone’s online, so to keep ahead of the curve, I pay a lot of attention to the latest online user innovations, and we’re constantly investing in web development.

Vital Stats

  • Player: David Ryan
  • Company: Rhino Africa Safaris
  • Est: 2005
  • X-Factor: The ability to always look ahead, ensuring the business doesn’t become complacent.
  • Contact: www.rhinoafrica.com

Nadine Todd is the Managing Editor of Entrepreneur Magazine, the How-To guide for growing businesses. Find her on Google+.

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