No matter where an entrepreneur turns there will be competition. There will always be another business trying to hone in on your product or lure some of your clients over to their team. They might have loyalty programs or better sales than you. So what do you do to bring clients back over to your side? While you may have similar products, the key to attracting and keeping your clients from the business down the street is setting your company apart from competitors in some way.
Rescue a CEO and CEO Blog Nation asked entrepreneurs how to set your business apart from competitors.
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Constant, strategic changes
You need to make constant, strategic changes to your business in order for it to grow and be able to anticipate the road ahead. Understand and know where your industry’s lifecycle is too, as this will help guide you in terms of innovation. To stay ahead of your competitors constantly, you sometimes need to ask yourself new questions and gain new perspectives. These new perspectives could come from a mentor, business coach, seminars and workshops. Don’t be scared to take calculated risks and experiment. Constantly be thinking about how you can add MORE value to your clients or customers than anybody else.
Thanks to Nikki Teller, Bewelded Engineering
Related Post: Most Important Parts of a Business Plan
Making the ordinary interesting
The easiest way for a company to set itself apart in today's over-communicated world is to make the ordinary interesting. At my first company this meant spending a bit more to get black, linen envelopes for all mailed correspondence with our return address in silver ink. It was far more expensive than ordinary envelopes but when customers and prospects saw that black envelope in the stack — it stood out and often that meant the different between getting opened and left to read later. In today's digitally centric world, it means applying a new digital spin to an old, tired Twitter meme — #FollowFriday — in order to get noticed. By changing the game, my company not only got noticed, but the recipient was dutifully impressed. All because we simply made what had become the ordinary (a #FF mention) into something interesting (a video based #FF mention). Think different isn't just and ad slogan, it's a true business strategy.
Thanks to Tom Martin, Converse Digital
Look at what your competition is doing
Most entrepreneurs or business owners typically feel that they are the best compared to their competition. Now this might be true for some business owners but not all. Business owners first need to know what their competition is doing in order to set themselves apart (and hopefully be better!). Follow your competition on social media, research them online and watch the PR wire for any news on your competition. It would be a good decision to also include a Google Alert on your competitors (any mention online of your competition will notify you by email – super handy!). Now doing all this is great but it just allows you to set a benchmark to what your competitors are doing, it's up to you to provide more value then what your competitors are doing. Provide that value and build a relationship with your clients/prospects. Building relationships with clients and being able to provide value will see your company take off and generate loyal clients.
Thanks to Matt Goulart, Ignite Digital Inc.
Competitors can be the best source for referrals
I have been doing this since 1994 and I learned early on that my competition can be my best source for referrals. I am located in the Boston area which is a tight group of people. When going to networking events I meet or I hear about a call center in the area. I will go and introduce myself to that company and start a conversation. (I see this as the same type of relationship that George Sr. and Bill Clinton have) we easily relate to each other because of our many commonalities. These conversations are often continued after the networking event over the phone or in person. I learn about them, they learn about me and we find where we don't overlap. Where we don't overlap is where we can help each other by making referrals to each other. Another results is that I now know more about there business than just reading the website. When and if I have to bid against them on a job I can inform the prospect of our differences so were not just seen as “all call centers are the same”.
Thanks to Ceri Ruenheck, It's Your Call
Related Post: Getting the Big Sale Closed
Personalize your interactions with your customers
Personalize your interactions with your customers. I know that sending thank you cards or personally tweeting somebody sounds a bit schmaltzy, but these little gestures mean a lot to people. Plenty of businesses push for quality customer service, but wind up forgetting all about those customers once a transaction is complete. Thus it is very easy to for one of your customers to feel like they are just another anonymous face in the crowd, and it is up to you as a business owner to make that extra bit of effort and recognize the men and women who have supported your business and helped you become successful. You’ll get more repeat and referrals but, more importantly, your customers will feel like they aren’t just a figure in the revenues section of your balance sheet.
Thanks to Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation
Remember to be authentic
Be Authentic – Visually, Verbally and Vocally! No matter what you've chosen to represent your business – graphics, color, language or a tag line – you should be consistent and authentic in every aspect. A business that changes it's mission, vision and values with the wind, or that attempts to prove expertise in a widely varied list of subjects will engender distrust and skepticism in the market. Pick what you want your business to be known for and be consistent with it. Give it your all before deciding to update or change your message – a confused customer will NOT buy!
Thanks to Dianne Daniels, The DivaStyle Coach, Inc.
Be different from what's out there
Bottom line, if you want to set your business apart there are two ways to do it…first be very different from what's out there. For example, I took an iconic product that everyone knows and created a whole new art form of celebrity rubber ducks of the greatest icons of film, music history, and athletics. I'll post our press kit letter below. It was a big gamble as no-one did licensed rubber ducks plus creating ducks with the intricacy in the sculpting and painting we would need was unheard of. Nonetheless, this also panned out as we ended up selling over a million ducks and creating a whole new company that does a line of celebrity rubber ducks that were voted one of the top 100 gifts by Entertainment Weekly and featured on hundreds of TV shows, magazines, and newspapers including The Tonight Show. I realized that the rubber duck niche was huge, but so was the niche of Elvis Presley, KISS, the Wizard of Oz, Blues Brothers, etc. So point number two…niche marketing. I decided that a very good way to really make this grow quickly would be to find a way to attract all market segments. Thus we took our product offering and tailored items to different kinds of people. We had things like The Wizard of Oz, Popeye, and Betty Boop which hit children, but was also retro to hit adults. We did a whole food themed line to interest people who love chocolate, people who love wine, BBQ, Cupcakes, Coffee, etc. We just kept going after different niches. We added KISS for the rocker group and even religious ones. We hit the Green movement with the world's first 100% recycled greeen duck. It worked as the more we expanded into different market niches the more our market share grew. The key to grow your business is to find a way to tailor what you offer to different people and this can apply not just to products, but services also. It's all how you target and market your particular offering to each group.
Thanks to Craig Wolfe, CelebriDucks
Differing vastly on the back end
We help small businesses get funding without leaving their office. We have quite a bit of competition in this arena however we differ vastly on the back end. There are many sites that will match up business owners with lenders which we do very well, but what happens to that customer once they get in contact with the lender or even what happens if they are turned down for funding. Our competition stops at this point, we keep going. We are concerned about the overall financial health of that small business. So whatever the reason that's holding them back for funding we'll analyze with them and figure out why, and what the next steps are for their financial core of their business so that in a few months we change their situation so they become fundable.
Thanks to Eric Hannan, iBank
Look at your business from a generational lens
Look at your business from a generational lens. When I started Secret Entourage, we wanted to create a motivational website that would become a huge resource for Entrepreneurs worldwide, but knew that many businesses already existed offering similar value. Instead of changing the entire business model that has worked for years and has been impact-full, we decided to look at the model from a generational lens and instead focus on the younger side of Gen Y by offering motivation through lifestyle. This has shaped our business to what it is today.
Thanks to Pejman Ghadimi, Secret Entourage
Ask what customers like and what they want more of
Ask your customers what they like about what you do, what do they want more of, what do they want less of, and how you can really genuinely provide them with great service or a great product. Be genuine about it and listen! and listen very attentively and not defensively to there responses. You will be surprised by what you learn. And your customers will love that you took the time to ask. Reward your customers for their feedback with some type of competition or prize. You will not only hear what you are doing really well which is great and you can give you and your staff a well deserved pat on the back but you will also hear what you need to do better at. Next step, is to put into action the feedback and thank and tell your customers what you have done to improve the your business service or products.This will set you apart from your competitors because you will be providing them with what they want and how they want it and they will love you for asking!
Thanks to Lisa Redman, Savvy Women's Business
Related Post: Winning at Customer Service
You have a very comprehensive collection of perspectives contained in this post! Great to see so many great minds in “one room” per se. I particularly liked Lisa Redmans point about asking your customers what they like and what they would like to see more of! Often times businesses have this tool in mind, but end up not using it properly! I also really liked Matt Goulart’s point about looking at what your competition is doing in order to get ahead. Of course, this needs to be done from both a legal, and ethical standpoint – but competitive analysis can be particularly useful when trying to make improvements to your business. It may also help to hire an outside company to conduct the analysis in order to save time, and resources internally. One company I do know of that does do this sort of thing is named SQM (http://goo.gl/GdS4Kd). At a relatively low cost, they can help you gain valuable information about your competition that can give you the edge you need in business. I am sure that there are a few other companies that do the same thing, so it is always up to the business owner to find a company that can benefit their business.