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.

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