Competition is a constant threat. If you want to stay on top, you have to stay on your toes because your competition won’t hesitate to step on them. Here are a few tips on how to get an advantage over your competition.
1. Advertise using the same media as your competitors. Offer to go that extra mile for your customers such as offering an extra 30 day warranty or free gift wrapping. Customers appreciate a business that will give a little extra without charging more. Here’s an example:
My husband had stopped at a local convenience mart for a soda after he closed his automotive repair shop. He saw an elderly man of about 80 struggling to change a flat tire on his car in the parking lot. My husband offered his assistance and changed the tire for the gentleman but refused to accept the $20.00 offered for helping out. A few days later, a customer entered his shop needing major repairs on her car. She explained to my husband that she was the daughter of the gentleman whom he had helped earlier in the week at the convenience station and she felt that he would treat her right as a customer! The few extra minutes that my husband spent helping one person, turned him into the preferred mechanic for that entire family.
2. Collect references or testimonials from satisfied customers. Nothing speaks louder than a reference from a satisfied customer. How often have you visited a restaurant because a friend or acquaintance had told you about their fantastic food or service? Or rented a movie because you heard someone say it was a must-see?
3. Find out who your competitors are that sell products or services similar to yours. Where and how do they advertise? How many employees do they have? What is their customer service like? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are their customers saying about them? The more you know about your competition, the better you will be able to adjust your own practices to compensate. Cheapest prices don’t always mean better products.
4. Keep your employees happy. If your employees are happy, they will make money for you. When your employees are happy, it will also show in their work and how they deal with your customers. If you have an employee that stands out among your other employees, make sure that he/she receives the recognition they deserve through employee-of-the-month programs, periodic raises, or simply an occasional word of praise between you and your employee.
5. Keep in touch with your customers. A business that is consumer oriented and has developed a relationship with its’ customers will keep them coming back. Without customers, you have no business! Treat each customer as if they were your best customer. As a rule, if a customer leaves your store smiling….they will return.
6. Plan on spending 75% of your time running your business. A new business requires careful planning, promoting and hard work. Don’t expect to take a vacation during the first year or two of opening your business! It takes time to build and nurture a business.
7. Identify your niche. It is best to start out marketing a business to a specialty niche. Once you have identified your niche, you need to find out whether you can make a living from it. Do some marketing research. Don’t rely on a single market segment for success, the secret is to discover several niches! Having the support of your family is important, however, I have discovered that the best competitive advantage is experience. Your chances of succeeding in business also increase if you have taken business courses in college or have worked in your particular market prior to starting your business. If you have experience, you probably already know what the market wants and the confidence to continue giving it to them. Although a detailed plan is an excellent tool, experience is by far your best advantage over competitors who are just breaking into business or who have forgotten that customers are what make your business a success.