Winning out over your competitors requires a combination of creativity, bravery, and perseverance.
Creativity means looking for innovative ways to out-smart and out-manoeuvre your competition. Bravery is required to stand up against competitor attacks on your product quality, product pricing and, sometimes, your business or personal reputation. And perseverance is that all-important “never-say-die attitude” helping you to find a way through the battlefield.
Consider these strategies to help edge out your competition.
Add crazy value
Price competition is a slippery slope for business owners who typically don’t trade in sufficient volume to significantly reduce input costs. But profits reside in higher prices, so that’s where you want to be.
To get that higher price, you’ll need to add crazy value to your products or services – and crazy value makes it difficult for customers to compare your offering to a competing offer.
Fortunately, as creative minds, adding value comes easily to entrepreneurs.
- Offer 24/7 support. Be available to support your customers anytime – it’s easy to do with a virtual help desk service. Heck, just answer your phone in the middle of the night!
- Do more. People expect so little from suppliers these days – creating an opportunity for you to “surprise and delight” customers. Offer free installation, help your customers find customers, create training videos, use a real human to answer helpline questions – it doesn’t take much to go the extra mile.
- Remove the risk. Offer a no-strings-attached return policy, easy payment terms, and lifetime warranty. Promote confidence in your product or service by removing any hesitation to buy from your company.
Double down on a niche market
There’s always a temptation in business to be a “generalist” and try to serve different categories of customers. That’s a mistake.
Unless you are a very large company (think Walmart) with endless marketing dollars to spend, you must allocate your scarce marketing resources and energies to serving a very specific market.
Become a specialist. By focusing on a very narrow market (I know one accounting firm serving only family-owned pet stores) your business will get very good at helping a specific type of customer – and build a reputation for excellence within that market.
Let your competition target everybody while you sell to somebody.
Communicate clearly - and often
Everyone talks about after-sale support but very few people actually do it well.
By simply following-up with recent customers who have purchased something from your business, you can create a distinct competitive advantage.
- Within 24 hours, call the customer to answer their questions about a purchased product or service.
- Send a thank you note (yes, by mail) to acknowledge a major purchase.
- Offer a short survey to assess customer satisfaction and use the results of that survey to address any customer dissatisfaction.
- Here’s the best one: fulfil any promises made to your customer. That may be as simple as showing up on time, returning a phone call, or sending some requested information.
Chances are you’re the only vendor smart enough to communicate with your customers.
Like Sully, being creative is a sure-fire strategy to beat your competition. Think outside the box to discover strategies for your business to out manoeuvre those obtuse, slow-moving competitors.
Need a small business laugh? Enjoy more Sully's Startup here. Attract business owners to your blog, website, or newsletter with our slice-of-small-business-life comic strip.
(Photo courtesy of Flickr.com)