Note: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visaâ€™s. See full disclosure at the bottom of this post.
How do customers and prospects look at you vs. others in your industry?
- What are your competitors best known for? Why do customers choose them rather than everyone else in your industry – including you?
- How does your competition’s “best known” thing compare to what you’re best known for? Why do customers choose you rather than everyone else in your industry?
How are those two “best known” things different?
Is it the products you carry? Or do your products primarily come from the same manufacturers as your competition?
How about the services you offer? Are they the same or similar to what your competitors offer?
Beyond the products and services you sell, how much effort are you putting into distinguishing what you’re best known for? If you want to stand out, these things require serious thought and effort on a regular basis.
How do you stand out?
One thing that businesses use to differentiate themselves is how they manage deployment and delivery. Not just the speed, but little touches related to ramp up, appointment management, packaging, follow-up, etc.
For example, 10 years ago, only the best plumbers would slip little white Tyvek booties over their boots when they entered a client’s house. This sent a then-unique signal to the homeowner that the plumber cares enough to address a common complaint of repair people – that they track in dirt/mud and leave without cleaning it up.
Today, it’s unusual not to see the booties – and that’s a good thing.
Leaders get copied
In the short term, you should expect your smarter competitors to copy the little details you implement – particularly the easy ones. Leaders get copied. Keep paying attention to the little details that your customers appreciate and keep adding new ones. Tip: The details that look like a lot of work will be the things your competitors are least likely to clone.
You should expect some of these little touches to become your industry’s “best practices.” In other words, your average competitors will do some of them – and that’s OK. When you’re regularly focused on things that make you stand out, you’ll always be ahead of your industry’s “best practices” curve.
Don’t be shy about reminding your clientele that you’re the one who started doing â€˜that little thingâ€™ for your clients that everyone else has finally started doing, much less informing them when you add new things.
Why should they choose you?
The classic marketing question is, “Why should someone choose you over all other competitors?”
To help answer that question, you’d better have a story that helps people understand why you do what you do the way you do it. It’s important to set this context because the story helps them learn why they should use you and no one else.
Last week, I was talking to a software guy whose clients got infected by an email virus.
He noted that they’ve changed their policies to scan for viruses in their email. I mentioned that it was surprising that email scanning would be new behavior. His reply: “They’re a small company and this is the first time they’ve been attacked.”
This surprised me, so I asked if this company had ever heard of anyone getting a virus via email before, and if they used anti-virus software prior to this episode. He said “I don’t know, I just sell them a product and I’m not a retailer.”
If that isn’t a positioning problem, I don’t know what is.
Anyone or the only one?
Anyone can “just sell a product” or take an order. If that’s all you do, you can be replaced with an online shopping cart. Even if your product is unique to you, “just selling a product” is poor positioning.
It takes a special business to be the go-to vendor that a client turns to when they need advice. “I don’t want them contacting me about every little thing,” you might say.
Actually, you do.
If you’re the one regularly providing them with valuable info that helps them improve and protect their business, you’ll become their expert. You’ll be the one they turn to when they need advice and when they need help in the form of products and services.
You can take orders and be anyone, or you can be their only one.
DISCLOSURE: I am blogging on behalf of Visa Business and received compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visaâ€™s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at the reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business.
The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently.
Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business ownerâ€™s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visaâ€™s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit http://visa.com/business.