Every business has some competition, even if you think that your product is something which is entirely new to the market. Even if there isn’t somebody who’s already making your exact product, there will be someone out there offering a substitute. After all companies like Uber aren’t only competing with traditional taxis, they also have to be a compelling alternative to using the subway or a bus. If there were no taxis, but Uber still cost a fortune, people would just get on the bus instead.
John Berger is the CEO of Transportation Solutions Enterprises, a transportation and logistics company from Chicago. Here is some of his advice on how businesses in competitive industries can stand out from their competition.
Highlight Competitor Deficiencies
One way Berger says that companies can stand out from the competition is to find situations where their competitors fall short. If potential customers can see how potential clients got let down in the past it can help drum up support for your business. You can also use it as a powerful marketing tool, contrasting what your business does with the practices of another company. Perhaps another company doesn’t deliver next day, or even if it does, perhaps it hasn’t got a great track record. Firms can differentiate themselves by comparing their performance with their competitors and by pointing out to customers that they can get a better deal if they go with them.
Offer A Range Of Services
There is a lot talk in the entrepreneurial world about the importance of making your product as simple as possible. But simplicity doesn’t mean that you should neglect certain market segments. Often consumers won’t want to buy your entire product stack, but they may be willing to mix and match different services that you offer. If customers just want to use a service that is part of a larger process, consider offering them services as standalone products.
Berger’s advice is to make sure that your company is a one stop shop for anybody who is interested in your products. Allowing customers to go to your competitors increases the chances that they will steal business from you.
Another thing that Berger suggests that companies do is transform themselves into experts and make suggestions for their customers. Doing this, he says, helps them to build rapport early on in their relationship and builds genuine authenticity into all communications.
Sometimes, he says, it can actually be beneficial for your company to defer business if it means that you will get more business in the future. Deflecting a sale, for example, and passing up on $100,000 could seem crazy right now but, Berger reminds businesses, circumstances can change, and small sums of money can grow into deals worth millions of dollars down the road. In other words, client trust is important.
Understand The Client’s Particular Industry
Part of the task of building a great product is convincing potential customers that the product fits into their particular world. All too often companies market products in a way that reflects themselves and their own achievements rather than putting themselves in the shoes of the people who are buying them. Berger says that prospective clients need to be able to understand and see how your product will fit into their industry. He suggests taking a picture of your product in action in a different setting whether it be in a business or consumer environment. Show your clients how your company can effectively act as an extension of theirs, and be creative in how you demonstrate this.
Don’t Be Annoying
A good rule of thumb is to think about how you would like to be treated by a company if you were considering buying something from them. Ask yourself whether you would want to receive 10 calls a day from somebody talking to you about their products. For most people, this would get annoying very quickly.
Often the best marketing strategies are those that have the most respect for other person’s time. Depending on your demographic, handwritten letters might make more of an impact than email marketing. If you do go down to email marketing route, make sure that your emails contain information that is genuinely useful to your clients. Building a relationship, and treating your customers like they are real human beings, can go a long way.
If clients have success with your business, make sure that you keep them informed of this. For example, if you are an accountant, make sure that you tell your clients about how much money you have saved them in their financial statements. If you are a web marketing agency, is it a good idea to provide companies with data about how much you increased their referrals or website traffic.
Hire Smart People Who Are Nice
By all measures, Stephen Hawking is a clever guy. But would you want to employ him? Probably not. That’s because he doesn’t have the sort of skills that will make him a great team player, something you need if you want to impress clients.
To have genuine success in the marketplace, everything your company says about itself has to be backed up by real people. You want to be known as a company in the marketplace, says Berger, with a fun group of professionals who are not only hard-working and intelligent but also empathetic. If your business is full of genuinely caring people who will stop at nothing to meet the client’s needs, then you will soon find that you generate a huge number of referrals and people hear about your business. For instance, if you run a boiler repair company, having professionals on your team who will come out late at night and that the weekends is something that will go down very well with customers. Even having people on the phone to reassure customers late at night when their boiler has broken down can help differentiate your company from the competition.
Great Customer Experience
Customers tend to be quite fickle. You can provide a fantastic service over an extended period of time, only for a single mistake to permanently damage your relationship with them. All of a sudden your business is no longer at the top of their list and they start thinking about jumping ship and going to one of your competitors.
Reputations can be damaged for all sorts of reasons. Berger says that the reputation of his logistics company is damaged every time a delivery is late, an employee is rude or if the delivery is wrong. Bad experiences, he says, can reduce the likelihood that a customer will give you repeat business and also prevents them from sharing your company to other firms in their network. If your business depends on word-of-mouth referrals, one bad experience can cause an enormous amount of financial damage.
It has often been said that the best way to make money in today’s business world is not to try to do better than your competition but to innovate and provide customers with something entirely new. Companies that innovate, like Facebook and Google, are those that tend to make the biggest profits. They also tend to be those that create the biggest fan following and delight customers the most.
Innovation, of course, isn’t easy, but it’s often something that was staring you in the face all along. For instance, many plumbing businesses only operate on weekdays between 9 o’clock in the morning and 5 in the afternoon. The problem is that people have problems with their plumbing at all hours of the day, 7 days a week. Innovation in this situation can be something as simple as offering a 24-hour repair phone service to customers who have used your business in the past. Knowing that they will always have somebody to talk to, customers are more likely to come to you than to shop around at your competition.
The chances are that no matter what service you are offering there will be somebody else online who is offering a similar service. This is why agencies like Poet Media emphasize the importance of digital marketing tactics and SEO. Your business needs to approach the problem of digital marketing from many different angles including things like white hat SEO, blogs, videos and press releases. Gaining a presence online is a marathon and not a sprint, but the sooner you start thinking about it, the faster you will get a leg up on your competition.
Use Facebook Reactions
Facebook has recently introduced a new tool called Reactions. This allows your Facebook followers to share a range of their responses to your posts. These reactions can tell you the general sentiment produced by the content you create and whether it is providing people with significant value. Using the data generated from reactions allows your company to stand out from the competition by producing content that delights and entertains its clients. It’s worth reading up on different blogs and websites about how to best engage customers on social media. Obviously, B2B businesses will have to adopt different tactics to customer-facing businesses.