Don’t let the competition control you

Home News Don’t let the competition control you

We all have competition. How you deal with your competitors can play a major role on your operation’s success—or failure—if you let them control what your customers are seeing and hearing.

Every market has a big vendor, a perceived leader, said Ardath Albee, a B2B marketing strategist and CEO of Marketing Interactions. “But that doesn’t mean they get to dictate how you go to market, your passion for what you do or your success.” If you let them, she added, it not only means you are being reactionary and defensive with your messaging. “You’re letting your competition define you.”

How do you combat this? Here are two ways.

1. Figure out where your competition shines and where it doesn’t. Home centers specialize in price; independent retailers can specialize in service and selection. “Let them have their shiny parts and go play where the sun doesn’t shine for them but is brilliantly blazing hot for you,” she said, suggesting a number of avenues to consider:

  • Niche plays. Where can you focus that the competition is not?
  • Who do they target? Does your competitor focus on a specific buyer type? Can you create content and messaging that gets you in through another door? How can you build relationships that have enough influence to get you to the table?
  • Tone and style. Which parts of your brand are distinct from their tone and style? Play them up. “If your competition is stuffy and academic, be conversational. Be the company people want to speak with.”
  • Which sandboxes can you own? Is the competition great at producing videos but its blog is a bit sparse? Is it doing Webinars that are really sales pitches as opposed to real product demos and not educational forums?

2. Be first in consumers’ minds. As David Gruttadaurio, editor of the Exceptional Living newsletter and a cleaning industry entrepreneur, said, “Marketing isn’t about products and services. It’s really a fight for consumer perception and it’s fought on the battlefield of opinion.”

People automatically attribute superiority to a product or service that’s first in its category, he explained. “It doesn’t matter if there are better products. If you’re first in their minds, then you must be the best.” But being the best is overrated, he added. “If you’re an ethical company, you already provide first-class products and services. But when you are considered first, you’re automatically assigned status and ranking.”

For the professional flooring store owner whose family is most likely an active member of the local community, how do you get consumers to think you’re first in your market or category without compromising your or the business’ principles?

  • Be the first to cater to a market in a unique way. “Offer the same product or service but put a new spin on it,” Gruttadaurio advised.
  • Customize a product or service for a specific market. “As carpet cleaners,” Gruttadaurio said, “our customer base may be residential homeowners. You could become the first to offer a special dust mite treatment exclusively for your customers. Use your imagination.”
  • Even if you’re not the first, he explained, you can market yourself as “the leader in carpet care for asthma sufferers” or “the first cleaning service for the smart homeowner.”
  • Try selling the same service n a brand new market. For instance, market yourself as the carpet cleaner who specializes n working with pet owners.
  • Can you add a brand new service or product to your business? If you are not in the maintenance business, now may be a good time to evaluate the possibilities.

Now that you have a plan in place, Gruttadaurio said the final step is to build a USP (Universal Selling Proposition) around your strategy and plaster it all over your marketing. “Then advertise it like crazy. It’s not going to do you any good if nobody knows about it.” Albee concluded, “As soon as you stop focusing on the competition, you’ll see a path open up to build the market reputation that pulls buyers to you, checkbooks in tow.”

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