We’re back with some of the most important questions to ask yourself as a Colorado small business owner or manager.
- What differentiates my product or service from my competition?
Now, I’ve heard there are some dumb people out there who think they have no competition. I call BS. EVERYONE has competition. It is cocky and naïve to think otherwise. Yes, you may be at the top of your industry, so you might FEEL as if you don’t have competition, but that was the downfall of the Hare when he lost to a Tortoise, so it’s time to drop that act, STAT. Know your competition, even if you are the best right now, because if you’re not paying attention to who they are and what they’re doing, they may just pull a fast one on you as they begin to notice your weaknesses and capitalize on that, becoming strong where you’re weak and pulling ahead.
So – do some homework…
google something that your typical customer would use to find your service or product – in fact, use several keyword phrases to get a varied response. Check out the websites of your competition, write them down and peruse their website and/or store to try to get a feel for ways in which they are better or worse than you in the areas of: customer service, product or service quality, web presence, store environment, pricing, and any others you can think of. After you’ve made those lists of your top 3 competitors, you can begin to see how you’re better than they are, or maybe areas that you can easily beef up to BECOME better than they are in those areas. That’s how you can begin to easily show your potential customers that YOU are the one to buy from because you do this, this, and this, while the ABC company across the street, does NOT do those things.
For example – we know that one of our competitors is a big-box type video production company based in NY. They call businesses across the USA to give their sales pitch to sell them a promo video, then create a canned video script, and hire local videographers to capture video which they, then, send back to their editors in NY for them to do a basic edit on it. I know we are better than they are in the area of customer service and accessibility. Because they are so big and all of their stuff is canned, I can tell people that it’s better to hire local (ie – us), because we don’t do canned – we do customized and personalized. We aren’t distant and hard to reach – we are always available for our clients and we’re quick to respond to emails and phone calls. And we have better customer service because we personally communicate our needs and their needs from beginning to end which takes all the guesswork out of the process and makes them feel at ease. Plus – if you hire us, you get us…not some mystery man with a camera that shows up on the shoot date and you’ll never see again. Is his work good or bad? You don’t know and don’t get a say in it, anyhow. That’s not how we roll – you are OUR client, and won’t have to work with any strangers.
Now….how could this POSSIBLY relate to milkshakes? A professor at the University of Phoenix performed some research with his team on behalf of a burger joint that hired him to figure out how to boost their milkshake sales. They had performed a survey amongst their daily customers to find out what would make them want to buy more milkshakes. They had done a taste test with a testing panel of people who judged on flavor, texture, temperature, cup design, etc. After improving their milkshakes, there was still no bump in milkshake sales. This professor, then, watched as people bought milkshakes – he saw a pattern in a few groups who came in the morning to order milkshakes and nothing else, so he stopped them to ask questions, and his question was framed very differently – “What job did you hire this milkshake to perform?” That’s a weird way of asking, so he further explained it- “On mornings that you DIDN’T hire a milkshake for the job, what did you hire instead?” Finally understanding, the people answered that they had hired a banana once, but it wasn’t filling all morning. Some noted that, honestly, the commute to work was boring and they just wanted something to do. Some had hired a muffin or donut but had gotten messy fingers and clothing from it. Some had hired a bagel but expressed how dry it was and how difficult it was to put jam or cream cheese on it while driving. But the milkshake was perfect because it would fit into their non-driving hand, easy to put in the cupholder when they need both hands, not get them messy, take about 20 minutes to drink (filling up boredom time) and keep them full all morning. Knowing this allowed the burger joint to redirect their marketing, beating out all of the other breakfast snack options around. It turns out, the burger joint didn’t need a better-tasting milkshake, they just needed to know their competition and market in a way that shows the milkshake as better than all of that competition! So, next time you get a new client, ask them who they hired to do this before, and ask what they liked and disliked about that experience – you may just gain a new edge over your competition by asking that simple question!
- How much power do my customers have?
If you are a company that sells to only a few elite, choice members, then it’s likely that your customers have HUGE sway over you. If one or two of those members complain about new prices or a change in your product, you almost certainly will have to bend to their will, or they might stop buying from you and kill your business!
But, the movie theater, for instance, doesn’t have that problem as much because they cater to a wider audience. So – if you want to stay in command of your business, you need to branch out to get a wider audience, so that if one of your clients drops out, you’re not instantly dead in the water. In the meantime, if you DO only have a few clients, presenting a constant air of confidence balanced with gratefulness for their business will go a long way. What I mean by that is – act like your business is just fine and not in danger if the client threatens to back out, but not so cocky that you chase them away. You’re grateful for their business, but you will keep your standards no matter what, cause you know you’re good at what you do. No groveling in your demeanor. No desperation in your voice. Be confident and be collecting new business so that you are more stable!
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