Competition isn’t a bad thing until your numbers are down, and it seems Dave’s place down the road is buzzing with all your customers. Here are four ways to help you deal with competition.
1) Positioning: If you can’t be first, be different.
Businesses throw away precious resources when their focus is to beat competitors at their own established game. How many companies have lost to Walmart? The cheapest-prices-game is dominated only by one company in the market.
Find a gap in the market where you’ll shine. This is the concept of positioning. Find a place in your customer’s mind which they value but isn’t yet filled. If you’re a coffee shop losing customers to big, bad Starbucks, don’t try to go head-to-head with your pumpkin spice latte. If you do, you’ll get a few that’ll probably prefer your drink compared to Starbucks, but not many. Why? Because Starbucks is already established in the customer’s mind as the #psl creator.
Instead, focus on light roast coffee or single origin if the position you want to have is the highest quality coffee in the area. Or, you can focus on a quiet atmosphere surrounded by nooks and books. Or the best, homemade pastries. Or…well, whatever differentiates you from the competition.
Look how Target, who also cares about price, dealt with their competitor. Instead of being the cheapest, they are the most stylish. Target still has great prices, just not as cheap as Walmart. Walmart has some good home decor, but it’s not as good as Target.
When dealing with competition, you probably won’t have the budget, willpower, and opportunity to take their throne. Instead, consider making a better kingdom. What position can you own in your customer’s mind?
2) Fine-Tune the Pillars of Your Business
We’ve heard the phrase “you’re only as good as your weakest link.” This is particularly true for business. My best advice before trying to take on other companies is to fine-tune the foundations of your own business.
Shop or Office Decor
Is your place of business set up to delight the customer? Consider the seating and decor. A consistent decor aesthetic with a clean flow to the room makes a big difference in the customer’s mind.
Unless you are going for a dusty antique vibe, avoid clutter like the plague. A menagerie of flyers and knick-knacks lying around only confuses and distracts your customer. Your customer only has so much attention they can give you.
Before we talk about what your website should look like, let’s talk about how it should function. You don’t need the latest parallax scrolling feature to be relevant on the web. The structure of your website should make sense for a new user.
The about and contact page should be the simplest thing to find out. Consider the flow the customer will go through if they started on the landing page. Is there clear information about what you do? And does it drive them to an appropriate call to action?
Visual Identity Consistency
At the bare minimum, you should have a logo, color palette, and designated fonts. This will give your business the consistency needed to start building brand recognition. Well, that’s if you use them. If you do have those things in place, all your prints, emails, and communications should have those (and only those) as well. You’re allowed to venture out of those confines if the situation calls for it, aren’t a graphic designer, I’d say play it safe at first.
Do you offer a great product? Your product or service is the workhorse of your business. It doesn’t matter if your place is immaculate, your website cutting edge and your visuals are captivating. If your product is lackluster, there is no reason to buy it.
Don’t just ask your friends and family about the product, ask people who use it. And don’t just ask them if they like it, ask concrete questions. What is your favorite part about the meal, and what can be improved? Or, what is your favorite feature about the product? Or, how did this product fit what you need?
Use these reviews to adjust the product and make it even better. If they are great reviews, use these as testimonials on your website and in marketing materials. Customers trust reviews by others well above anything you can say about your business yourself.
3) Use the equity your competition has already created to your advantage.
Your competition has spent copious amounts of time educating the market. This means you don’t have to. Use the knowledge already in your target customer’s mind to quickly differentiate your business. These are all ways I’ve heard businesses described, which immediately made sense to the customer.
“We are like Starbucks; only all our coffee is single-origin and roasted in small batches.”
“We are like Subway only instead of sandwiches we make healthy burritos.”
“We are like Instagram for friends and family to see your kids.”
Knowing what differentiates your product from competitors comes in handy.
4) Know the Difference Between Direct Competitors and Fellow Business Owners.
Sometimes your competition isn’t a direct competitor. Meaning, they aren’t taking customers away from you; they are just another business your customer enjoys as well.
Sharing each other’s audience looks like it can “hurt” your business, but it has proven time and again to do the opposite. This concept is most evident with social media influencers. The influencers are happy because they get to interact with a new group of people. The audience is happy because they found out about another account, which is of interest.
Easy, you say, for social media since they merely have to click on the follow button. Yes, but it is still applicable to brick and mortar stores or online business. Finding complementary business relationships can happen with some creativity and trial + error.