Friday, March 22, 2013

Who is Your REAL Competition?

I know, it's the other widget store in town, or the other accounting firm in the same building – or maybe the interior designer in the next city that your clients keep seeing in Southern Living. Really? Sorry, it's much more complicated than that.

In addition to all of those obvious competitors, because their business card lists the same services as yours ... there are almost unlimited other, slight hidden competitors who may be getting even more of your business.

So, let's think about some of the possibilities. Make a list. These are the dragons you will have to slay to win business in tomorrow's market.

1) Online vendors, services, etc. Wow. The planet has shifted now that companies online are competing for the same business that you are. What they usually have going for them is price. What don't they have? That depends on you. Can you give better service? More individual attention? Better delivery? A more process? Creative solutions to specific situations?

2) They can do it themselves! So much of what we provide really can be done at some level by your clients. They can balance their books. They can bake a great birthday cake. They can write their own press release. They can do their own hair. You have to do it better. That's all there is to it. It has to be more convenient, better, less time-consuming, more professional or a combination of all of those in order to make sense.

3) They have a cousin in the business – sort of. This is virtually always a half-bogus solution. Yes, their 19 year-old cousin will design a website for them. But ... how much does she know about marketing? How well does she understand their customers' motivation? How much does she know about the marketplace? How relevant is her solution to the specific challenge? Again, it is your job to be so much better that it only makes sense to get a professional job. And then, you have to convince your potential customers of your value. Yes, the cousin will do it for free. No. It won't be a brilliant job.

4) The guy down the street. Yes, he's still there. And he may be doing a great job. What is it that you do better? It's important to know what this direct competition is offering, how well they deliver, and about their pricing. Then decide what separates you and sell to your strengths. Find the customers that need exactly what you do best and then keep them happy.

4b) Just a side note. Sometimes the ones you think are your direct competition can be a great asset to your business. If an opportunity comes up that is bigger than you usually handle, can you work together? Pool your strengths to land a really big client?

So what can we do when the competition is coming from all sides? Get to know those competitors. Read their ads, visit their websites, pick up their brochures. Know their strengths and your own. Look for a niche where no one is doing a perfect job and get perfect! Write down all the other ways your new best customer could get the job done. Then spend some time being objective about if and why you could do it better.

Be amazing at what you do. Know the competition but don't worry about them. Give your customers a great experience and they will keep coming back.

NEXT: Analyze Your Marketplace.

For more samples of our work go to:

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Tell Me a Story – And Make it a Good One!

Interesting = Memorable. 
Interesting = “Tell Me More.”
Interesting = Brand Awareness.

For all the obvious reasons, the stories of your business are the lifeblood of your marketing. They can take many forms, but they are often the reason someone thinks of you first.

Testimonials as Stories.

Probably one of the most effective stories you can have is a testimonial from a happy customer.  Sometimes they aren’t easy to get, but they are worth the trouble. If someone says “That was a great job.” or “I love your work.” or “Thanks for taking the time to walk me through that process.” Ask for a testimonial.

And, no, you don’t say “Can you give me  a testimonial?”

You might say; “Wow, thanks for appreciating that. Sometimes we don’t know if our customers notice. I would like to put that on my website (or in my brochure). If you will give me your email address I’ll write up a first draft and send it to you for your approval.”

For most of us, writing something for public viewing is a drill at best and torture at worst. If you offer to take the burden off and start the testimonial, they are more likely to like the idea. And, you get to structure it a little and give them a nudge in the direction you want.

How I Started My Business as a Story

People are fascinated with success stories. An appropriately humble story about how you turned job skills into a business is always interesting. If it is interesting enough, it might be the basis for a newspaper or neighborhood newsletter article. Just start putting down the facts and don’t leave out the struggles and the people who helped you overcome them.

Customer Successes as Stories

If your customers have personal successes, and especially if your product or service contributed, these can be great stories for you. Maybe Profiles of Businesses Who Use our Products or Our Clients at Society Events or Best Gardens We Helped Create.

Case Studies as Stories

Prospective clients need to hear about the range of your experience, and the depth of your expertise. A great way to share that is through case studies. 

A few notes of caution:
  • Be careful not to over-share. Protect your client’s information and your own interests by a combination of de-identifying and editing details.
  • Don’t take more than your share of the credit for client successes. Even de-identified clients like to look good.
  • Make it a quick read. There are occasions when you need a straight case study. For marketing purposes, we are looking for the unusual, the interesting, the challenging aspects.

Market Trends as Stories

Sometimes what is going on in the market makes a great story – especially for someone in a related industry. If you can gather interesting trend information from reliable sources and share it with your customers, it can be invaluable.

Be Interesting.

Here's a great quote from Guy Kawasaki on engaging customers.

"To be successful in business, you need to think beyond transactions, numbers, and sales and focus on the most important factor of any relationship: people. Enchant people with your likeability, your trustworthiness, and all your other engaging, human qualities, and you'll form honest, mutually beneficial relationships. When you do so, you'll find that customers embrace your ideas and adopt your perspective—for life."


Next: The Competition – How Much Do You Know?

For more samples of our work go to: