It’s an exciting time when you launch a new business. All of the hard work and research finally comes to fruition when you get that first customer. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an online business or a brick-and-mortar store: being in business for yourself can be an exciting, wild ride.
Whether it’s a brand new, original offering or just your own take on an established business idea, it’s an absolute guarantee that you will eventually face competition from another business. Maybe not right away, but it’s inevitable that someone else will offer a product or service like yours, in an area where you operate. Here are some tips for how to maintain your business when a competitor moves in.
- First and foremost – welcome the competition! Instead of treating it as lost market share, competition can actually help increase sales. It’s really just a matter of attitude and creative adaptation. Look at it this way – someone else agrees with your assessment that this is a viable business opportunity; you’re not off on some wild goose chase. Like so many other things in this world, attitude is everything. A competitor is NOT the end of the world.
- Reinforce your customer support. Now that your customers have an alternative, it is imperative that you treat the customers you already have with care. Look for ways to improve service – decreased repair times, more timely updates, quicker delivery times, etc. Every business can find instances of upset customers. Study these cases and make sure your business is doing everything it can to take care of the customer. These types of improvements can usually be implemented more quickly than rolling out new products.
- Stake out Facebook. If you don’t already have a presence on Facebook, get your page set up immediately. Don’t let your competitor beat you to the punch. Get on Facebook to promote your business in a positive way. You can also use Facebook to find out what people are saying about you and your business, or at least get an idea of the common view of your kind of business.
- Critically review your product offerings and look for ways to improve what you provide. Your reconnaissance on Facebook should turn up valuable information on the items or services your customers long for – see if you can provide them.
- Your customers are an extremely valuable, yet often ignored asset. Go back to your happy customers and ask for referrals and new opportunities. You may say this is common business sense, and yet many small businesses forget about this valuable resource. A repeat customer is less likely to abandon you for the competition.
- Never, never, never make fun of or harshly condemn your competitor. It usually reflects badly on the one doing the criticizing. The best way to point out your advantages is with the tried-and-true “yes-no” chart where you end up with the most checkmarks in the “yes” column. Put one or two of these on your website and make sure any sales people on your team can recite them in their sleep.
- Study your competition and know where they excel and where you’re the better choice. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to tell a prospective customer that your competitor doesn’t offer such-and-such, or that they do something in a less-than-preferred manner, only to be wrong in your assessment. You’ll look foolish and probably lose the business. In other words, those “yes-no” charts discussed above need to be accurate.
- Start a blog on your website. Lots of articles have been written about why having a business blog makes sense, no matter what type of business you have. If you already have a blog, then make sure you’re presenting relevant information on a steady basis.
- Raise awareness of your brand in positive ways. You can partner with local organizations in your community for food drives, clean-up projects or other beautification projects. You can create on-line partnerships as well. Get your business associated with something doing good or giving back to the world at large; people will remember that.
- Reject the view that it’s all about price. Sure, you might lose some business to the competition over price. But they may be only offering cut-rate pricing as a way to get started, and have no plans to sustain those rates. Take the high road, keep focused on providing the best products and services that you can and never neglect your customers once they buy. Chances are those that leave your business to try something else based solely on price will come back to you once they realize that your established company is still the right choice.
Above all, remember that competition is just a sign of a health business economy!
Christopher Wallace, Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Amsterdam Printing, has more than 20 years experience in sales and marketing. At Amsterdam, a leading provider of personalized pens, promotional pens, and other personalized items such as imprinted apparel and customized calendars, Christopher is focused on providing quality marketing materials to small, mid-size and large businesses.
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