When envisioning and developing your business, you need to focus on both short- and long-term goals. Your short-term goal is to outgrow a local competitor’s annual gross sales. You know deep within you want to eventually compete with national giants, but first, you need to examine your strengths and their weaknesses.
Market competition can create a battleground and your goal is to win the war. This mindset might be controversial, but many businesses have failed because they did not capitalize on their competitors’ faults. You can build your small business from modest beginnings to achieve multimillion-rupee revenues by distinguishing your venture from others like it.
Analyse your industry. Studying the competition allows you to find weaknesses in their organisations. Begin by subscribing to their newsletters. Approach a competitor as an interested customer so you can see what its sales and customer service processes are like. You will be able to gain invaluable information by simply buying a product and noting the logistics of the sales process. You can take it further and visiting the business’ location, which allows you to speak to managers or even the owner.
Outshine the competition. Now that you’ve gained knowledge about your competitors, put it to use. Create a more professional, user-friendly website. If applicable, outbid your competitors and secure exclusive contracts with your clients. Work to take your competitors out of the picture. Your goal is to provide the most effective and efficient service or product from the start so customers recognize the quality of your company as well as its integrity.
Focus on customer service. Do this by assembling the best team possible. After all, your business is only as good as your employees - they’re the face of your company. Positive and resourceful customer service helps set your venture apart at the outset, since larger companies are simply not as hungry for new customers. Aim to create the best shopping experience for your customers and do not compromise on the quality of your employees. Regular communication about business priorities and strategies is crucial to professional and monetary growth.
Create quiet opportunities. As you’re putting together the best team, best product and best marketing, you want to keep a low profile. If you’re overexposed, your competitors will notice quickly and begin fighting back for market share. Try to keep your company under the radar as long as possible, while also gaining valuable and dedicated customers. Once those customers understand the quality and reliability of your business, they will remain loyal — despite increased attention or competitors who might offer lower prices or more blatant promotions.
Maintain your lead. You should know your business better than anyone. Be proactive and deliver a quality product or service consistently. The most successful entrepreneurs anticipate future advances in technology, customer service and production, and incorporate them into their game plans. You need to constantly push yourself and your team to new heights through active research and by attending professional conferences to avoid losing your edge to the competition. Team-building and potential contacts enrich the overall experience.
Seven ways to differentiate yourself from competition
1. Product differentiation
How is your product or offering different from or better than your competitors’? If you can’t come up with some solidly unique components, you may be in danger of being perceived as just another commodity. Perhaps you and others within your company can make product enhancements a major initiative. The collective intellect of this group might well be able to create something unique about your product or service; then creatively exploit every aspect of the difference and tie it into what the prospective customer values.
2. Price differentiation
Harness the power of relationships and lock out the competition, regardless of the marketplace. Unsophisticated marketing and sales people often think the best way to get business is by under-pricing everybody else. Thin margins have put more companies out of business than any other single factor. If the boss chooses to go to market as the low-price provider, your company better have every expense category cut to the bone, including sales commissions, or it will perish in short order!
3. Relationship differentiation
If there is a solid relationship between you and your clients based on high trust, you have an inside track of tremendous value. This environment will make you the envy of your competitors and your client may not even give your competitor a chance if the relationship is strong enough. Build trust with a solid, high-integrity win-win approach by exceeding their expectations and being a valued resource in every conceivable way. Be prepared to earn their trust, which takes time, planning and perseverance. Be impeccable with your word from the get-go and implement a communication process that continues to keep you and your clients connected.
4. Process differentiation
Many companies don’t attach enough significance to the processes that dictate the image of their business model. The “We’ve never done it that way” syndrome bites us in the backside when we don’t give innovative thought to our business practices. Get your best minds together and brainstorm better, more customer-friendly out of-the-box ways to do business. Capitalize on innovation rather than being a victim of it!
5. Technological differentiation
This age of modern technology affords many opportunities to advance our ways of operating and communicating. These new modes of communication encompass a wide variety of options, from using podcasts to update customers or address customer-sensitive issues to a blog that provides “voice” and interface to “hear” from your customers that results in your prospects better understanding updates, changes and timely buying opportunities. Cardinal rule: Make it easy for the customer to communicate and buy.
6. Experiential differentiation
Can we provide customers with knock-your-socks-off service and experiences that are so memorable that they start telling their friends and colleagues? Customer service miracles are anything you can do to make a customer say “Wow!” Ask yourself, “How can I make doing business with me an irresistible experience?”
7. Marketing differentiation
Give careful thought to how you go to market. If you can outsell your competitors, you will gain market share.
Determine ways to create a distinction in your sales and marketing approaches that support setting you apart in your marketplace. If your sales process is so compelling that your prospects see your offering as irresistible, it renders your competitors irrelevant!
Customers will always pay for expertise and do business with those individuals they know, like and trust! When trust is high, stress levels go down and vice versa, which is why high-pressure tactics really don’t work anymore.
Today’s markets are in a state of flux. Small companies are re-evaluating how they run their businesses; many are restructuring their organisations and others are re-aligning their work staffs. In those voids are opportunities that could now open to you, or with services you can provide to new customer groups. (Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)