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How to compete without going cheap




So you have a bit of a problem…you want to know how to compete with the big boys and girls in your industry. They are not playing fair…and it’s having an effect on your business.

It’s so easy to think that because they are so big and hold so much of the market share in your industry that there is no way you can compete… but you are wrong …and the good news is that trying to compete by reducing your prices is NOT the way to do it.

Because you are a small business, you actually have a load of aces hidden up your sleeve that the giants in your industry can only dream about… they may be big, but as with David and Goliath, sometimes smaller is better.

Read on… things are actually looking quite good for you right now!

You have adaptability on your side

  • You are adaptable and because you are small you can do it quickly!
  • Big companies such as Amazon, Tesco, MacDonalds and Spec-Savers have a lot of ‘corporate inertia’ which makes them slower to manoeuvre, so they are usually late spotting new trends in the market.

You need fewer customers

  • This may not seem like an advantage, but the big boys and girls need to guarantee thousands and thousands of sales for each product they stock, and so every product has to be ‘toned down’ and ‘generalised’ in order to appeal to the widest customer base possible.
  • You on the other hand can buy or offer fewer products or services but do them better.

You can go ‘niche’

  • Don’t try to compete with everything your bigger rivals sell – you can’t do it, so the trick is to go niche (small) and then go broad (wide) within that niche.
  • For example, rather than trying to compete with Halfords for all types of bicycle on price, why not specialise in touring bikes, or off road bikes, or bikes for ladies (and so on….), and offer a specialist service and lots of related specialist products geared up (no pun intended!) just for them.
  • Because enthusiasts talk about their enthusiasms to each other, you will soon become the ‘go to’ place for people like them.

You can become an ‘Expert’

  • People feel at ease with experts, especially when they are making a big-ish purchase.
  • By positioning yourself as an expert in your niche you can not only win clients because of your obvious knowledge about solving their particular problems, you can charge higher prices too.
  • A few years ago I did some branding and development work with a florist – at the time she was just selling whatever was in season in her small Suffolk shop, but this work was seasonal and she was tied to the shop all day, 6 days a week, and she really wanted to be out in the fresh air tending the plants. Anyway, to cut a long story short, she now specialises in locating, importing and growing unusual bulbs from all over the world which she sells on to other shops and specialist gardeners all over the UK at a profit. She is known in the trade to be an industry expert and as such she has growers contacting her to ask her opinion and to see what’s new and unusual – and, of course, enthusiasts talk to each other!

You can really talk to your customers

  • I’m not just talking about in person either – people like to buy from people who they like and trust and so building relationships with potential customers is really important for small business owners.
  • With so many people using social media these days, it’s really a bit of a no-brainer that you should be using this as a way of reaching out to your customers.
  • However – DON’T SELL ALL THE TIME! This is critical… experts in social media marketing say that only about one in eight contacts should be selling stuff. Instead, just make a point of being there and occasionally take part in relevant conversations. Join specialist on-line groups and offer free advice, share interesting news or funny things that will make people laugh.
  • The key things to remember on social media are:
    1. Don’t sell all the time.
    2. Always link your post to your business using your www. address at the end so customers can find you if they want to.
    3. Never lose your cool – you are representing your company remember – this is NOT the place to share about how drunk you got last night or to rant about the referee in Saturday’s match.
    4. If people start to talk business on-line, be polite and ask if you can message, phone or email them. Not only will this show them you are serious about talking to them, but it means you can store their contact details for future marketing activity… if they were interested in ‘A’ they might also be interested in buying ‘B’ and ‘C’…
    5. ‘Listen’ more than you ‘talk’… tune in to what people in your target market are really saying about what they do and use. What do they complain to each other about? Can you solve their problem?

You can provide ‘Quality’

  • Market yourself on your quality not your price.
  • A recent great and very successful example of this is Oak Furniture Land who have marketed their solid wood, and quite expensive, furniture on quality and service.
  • …and of course, as an expert, you can really talk to your customers about why it’s so good… (can you see how all the strings are tying up now?….)

You can offer something a bit different

  • Not everyone wants the same mass-produced stuff – many are prepared to pay a bit extra for something a bit different from the usual.
  • Unusual combinations – use your imagination depending on your business. For instance a hairdresser could also offer coffee and cakes and a café type seating area to be pampered in; a hotel lobby could play retro music every Tuesday for a 1940’s feel with staff in period costume!
  • ‘Tunes on Tuesday’ – Have a new theme every week…and post about it on social media! Your local library will be able to supply you with CDs almost for free!
  • Use your imagination…and listen to your customers – what sort of things would appeal to them?

You can offer training

  • Customers really value that ‘one-to-one’ attention – maybe it’s just something as simple as showing the customer how to assemble the product, how to store it in the best way, an unusual secondary use tip or some after care advice.
  • Safety is a big worry these days, especially if your trade deals with the more vulnerable members of society (children, the elderly, the disabled), or if you work with animals.
  •  Or you could go all out and actually do a training session teaching people how to use the products or services you sell. For instance, if you specialise in renovating old houses, why not take photos of things to watch out for, put together a Power Point show about it and advertise your free advice evening on-line? If you also get a friend to record you doing it, you could post it on YouTube afterwards as well! Instant expert!

You can be more relaxed

  • Not everyone likes big noisy loud and busy environments – peaceful is sometimes just what the discerning customer needs!

You can offer specialist services

  • For instance female handy-women, electricians or drivers to work in all female environments.
  • CRB checked staff to work with children.
  • An employee who speaks fluently in a language spoken by a large section of your customers.

You can offer better customer service

This is the REAL WINNER every time – the big boys and girls can’t compete on this one, so go all out and give it all you’ve got.

  • Delight your customer!
  • Collect testimonials!
  • Get them to recommend you to others!

Who said that you can’t outsmart the big boys?


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