I win you lose. Winner takes all. I can’t compete with the big guys they have more…. (fill in the blank).  Oh no! my competitor is opening near me I am doomed. We  have all heard these lines and maybe said them. Competition doesn’t have to be the end of your dream.

When Walmart, or Target or Starbucks came to town many small businesses gave up they said they couldn’t compete. They were wrong! They lost sight of who their market is and why their customers came to them. How do you overcome this? Here are some things to think about and try.

  1. Go back to basics. Who is your ideal customer? Remember it isn’t everyone. Do a survey. Ask your customers why they use you  and what they would like more of. I have asked my clients and their responses are; I start from where they are and help them get to where they want to be. It’s their agenda not mine. I keep them accountable. I teach them tools they can use now. I provide the resources they need even if it means using another consultant. They appreciate when I say I don’t have the answer but will help them find it.  This is my value to them
  2. Now that you have this information capitalize on it.  What is the value you provide? Are you only selling what you have or are you learning your client’s needs and helping them accomplish  their goals? Your marketing material must emphasize your value, not the nice to have but the true benefit you bring to them.
  3. People like choices  that’s why there are so many ice cream flavors. I have seen it more since I had to be gluten free. I have limited choice and have to buy what is there and of course pay more. Wouldn’t I love a store that had the choices for me at a reasonable price.  How about those of you that have other needs be it food or allergies or whatever; isn’t it great to find places to provide what you want at reasonable prices. How about buying insurance, car, health or home, you want the best for you  not the only product a company sells.
  4. Once you figure out what people want, use if then statements in your marketing; if this is your issue I can fix it by….. .There is an ad for the”smell good plumber”  It doesn’t entice me. Thousand Oaks Plumbing has an ad that they can clean the sewer pipes without trenching.  Having  seen the mess it makes to fix sewer pipes from the garage to the street I am interested.
  5. Have you looked to see what the competition is offering and how you differ?  When people come to you do they feel welcome? Is your merchandise displayed well? For service industries do you answer the phone quickly or are you on hold a long time?  Do you send them to the website and what if they don’t know how to use it correctly?  Can you easily respond to questions?  If you have an appointment are you on time, or do you make people wait, like doctors? I realize they are called patients because they have to have patience due to long wait times. Analyze what you do vs the competition and do it better or differently to entice the customer.
  6. Do you ask the right questions? Here are 6 questions to think about in your analysis of what clients want.  Did you ask? Did they tell? Did you listen? Did you implement? Did they like it? and did you evaluate?  Don’t assume you  know, get the answers.
  7. Lose buzz words.  Sometimes we use acronyms or industry specific words to explain things and show how smart we are.  We assume our customers know what we are saying. They may not and you may be intimidating them  and they may be afraid to say they don’t understand.  Instead they will walk away.  Teach your customers! Help them feel smart .
  8. We have all heard the term too big to fail and we have seen how wrong it is. Think large chain department stores.  They lived by the rule of “this is what we always do and why we are the best”; until the new kid comes to town. Companies that succeed understand that while they have a niche, they have to make sure it is appropriate for the customer. So many department stores are constantly doing sales or trying to be all things to all people instead of focusing on their core values and learning how to use that to appeal to their market. Nordstrom was famous for customer service no matter what, now you can’t find anyone to answer a question or ring up a sale.
  9. Here’s an observation. It has been said that online is killing the brick and mortar. No it isn’t brick and mortar is killing itself.  Here are a couple of ideas to refute this and give value.  When I shop online i have to know what I am looking for and I don’t browse or do impulse buying because it takes too long.  When I go into a store I can see how things fit, or work , and I can wander and peruse and who knows what I will find.  In stores products may be curated so you know what goes with what.   Good staff will help you by asking the right questions  All of this is value added.

Competition is actually good it helps you identify where you have gaps or weaknesses. You can fix those and do better and be sustainable. Show your value and you will attract the customers you want.