When a competitor is running circles around you it’s not always obvious as to why. And if you are busy running your business or maybe even beating your brains out trying to educate consumers about why they’re choosing wrong (when they favor said competitors) you might not have stopped to figure out exactly why they are beating you.
Maybe it’s not that consumers are uneducated. Maybe it’s not that competitors have ‘built a better mousetrap.’ Maybe it’s not them, it’s you.
The truth is, the competition doesn’t always have to work that hard to get ahead, because in business, we beat ourselves all the time. Even in areas which are ‘our own game’ – so to speak – those areas where we feel our business is most strong or where we feel that our product or services can’t be matched by the competition.
With that in mind, here are the top 10 reasons the competition might be beating you at your own game:
1. They’ve figured out the SEO secret sauce.
Effective SEO gets your website found, and found more often, by the individuals you most want to attract. If you’ve avoided even thinking about “SEO” because you thought it included a lot of other technical, complicated acronyms and terms, it’s time to demystify.
While there are technical aspects of SEO, as a small business owner or independent professional, you need to know enough about SEO to manage your website, blog, email marketing communications, social media and other internet marketing strategically.
You may, in the end, determine that it’s worth your while to outsource some of your SEO but at least if you understand it, you can choose the right provider and know what you’re getting for the dollars that you spend. What’s more, monthly SEO charges don’t have to break the bank. Email me if you need a recommendation!
2. They targeted their marketing.
It’s easy to spend money and spend it fast on advertising and promotional activities. And there are no shortage of newspapers, magazines, radio stations or other media out there who would be all too willing to help you spend your marketing dollars, as well. What’s more, there are literally hundreds of marketing activities that you could engage in each and every month (if you could only clone yourself).
What’s not easy is figuring out which of these hundreds of options will actually produce a return and the type of return you desire. What has always been true of marketing still is: you need to know who you want to reach in order to reach them. If not, you are likely expending resources with little return and not making contact with the ideal client types and target markets you want to reach.
3. They collaborated with other businesses.
Many small business owners participate in networking groups, but few have turned their networking groups, rotaries, chambers of commerce and other business cooperatives into marketing cooperatives. Businesses that get other businesses to work for them in generating referrals and cooperative advertising have the ability to connect with and attract far more people in their target markets than those who do not, and at an exponentially smaller cost.
4. They attracted (and motivated) influencers.
While most business owners readily assert that “word of mouth is their best marketing,” few have any strategic marketing tactics in place to attract influencers (people who influence other people to try things, buy things, visit places, etc.) Make part of your marketing strategy a goal of attracting people who have significant social, professional or other circles of acquaintances, online or off, made up of individuals within your target markets to your business and then turning those influencers into brand advocates, referrers, review posters, product raters, blog readers and sharers, etc.
5. They mastered the art of relationship management.
It is said that people don’t buy from businesses, they buy from people. All too often we approach marketing logically when we should be approaching it from a standpoint more emotional and relational. Your business may well have the best products or services in your field, but if the other guy has the best relationship managers on staff, he’ll win just about every time, and win over time.
6. They paid attention to aesthetic details.
When was the last time that you had your business secret shopped or evaluated by a merchandising, decorating, space planning or another type of expert? Businesses that devote resources to analysis of the customer’s journey through the business (whether it’s a physical location or a virtual one) are more likely to understand the aesthetic details that may have nothing to do with their actual products or services, but which may none-the-less make or break a customer’s experience.
7. They created a unique customer experience.
Let’s pick on restaurants for a minute. When you visit a fast food restaurant, you know the drill. Enter (or drive up) and wait, order, wait, sit and eat (or take your food and go). And the same goes for a dine-in restaurant; enter, wait, be seated, review choices, order, wait, eat, pay, leave. My point is that many businesses provide similar experiences – only the details of the actual product or service types vary. But if you can create a customer experience that is outside of the customer’s expectations – in a good way – you set the stage for repeat visits and referrals. And this intrinsic experiential difference can become a topic that is buzz-worthy in and of itself.
8. They actually populate their blog.
Businesses that blog regularly get more web traffic, and businesses that get more web traffic get more sales. Write blog articles on topics that your target audience are likely to search for online and you will increase the number of people who find your blog and other web properties.
And once you’ve got them there, plan your blog (or website, social media, email newsletter, etc.) so that these landing page articles entice them to take another action you want them to take, whether that is to learn more about your business online or visit your business (off line or online) for the purposes of shopping or (better yet) buying something from you.
9. They send regular email newsletters.
I love shopping and with a husband, two dogs and 6 kids, I can usually find a reason to shop each and every week. That being the case, not very many weeks go by where a retailer doesn’t ask for my email address. But even though I’ve given my email address out to many businesses, only a handful actually send me email messages.
Email newsletters and updates are one of the best and lowest cost ways to communicate with your customers quickly and at the right frequency. What’s more, if you’ve asked for your customer’s email address, it’s likely that they expect to hear from you. Study after study indicates that customers that interact with a brand online do so for the purpose of obtaining discounts and coupons. At the very least, you should be using email marketing to let your contacts know about current promotions or special buys.
Plus, when someone visits your website with interest in your products or services but isn’t ready to buy, email newsletters are a great option for keeping your business’ name in their mind so that when they are ready to buy, they buy from you. In fact, it could very well be one of the best means at your disposal to continue the dialogue with prospects in this way.
10. They ask for, and utilize, customer feedback.
There’s nothing that sends the message that a company really does care about its customers than when they actually act on the suggestions, ideas, feedback and requests made by their customers. Make the dialogue within your relationships two-way relationships, rather than monologues (you telling them what they should buy from you). You’ll get great information about how to improve your business and the customer experience as well as reviews, raves and other feedback you need to evolve your product and service offering mix in alignment with market demand.