How do you “handle” the competition?
Meaning, do your competitors factor into your offers, your customers, your sales and marketing strategy? How much weight should you give to their consideration?
And, What exactly should know about your competition and how do those insights affect YOUR plans?
Unless you’re operating in a total vacuum, you should assess the competitors in your space to see what your customers see when they go looking for solutions.
However, there’s a difference between “assessing” and “obsessing”.
After interviewing and competitively assessing hundreds of businesses these past few years, a deep dive into most organizations reveals their competitive strategy has them making decisions with strategies more closely aligned with their COMPETITORS than aligned with their CUSTOMERS.
Does that sound crazy? We think it is but it’s not that obvious if you’re in a frenzied state about your competitor snagging one of your big clients or slashing their prices to try to poach your customers.
But think about it. Obsessing over your competition – what they’re doing, what they’re offering, where they’re pricing, where they’re advertising, who’s buying, et cetera . . . can skew your decisions and actions to where you’re trying to compete with the same products, spend the same advertising budgets, offer the same terms, all in the name of winning the same customers.
This strategy is sure to backfire on you though because we don’t make decisions based on what seems the same, we seek to understand how things are DIFFERENT and choose the differences that are important to us.
So what DO you need to understand about your competitors so you can “Do it different”?
Take a look through your customers’ lens and see what they see:
What’s the first impression customers have?
The first place people look for solutions? Online, of course. Check out your competitors’ website. How clear and up to date is it? Is it responsive on devices and reflective of how people would search for answers on the site? Is there insightful information about the market or industry that would help clear up options?
How are they CLEARLY different?
Do you get a sense of who the business serves, how they do it uniquely, and what they specialize in? Does the business have a personality or a unique sense of fun or culture? How do customers relate, identify with or understand the descriptions of services or products?
How accessible are they?
Do they have social media profiles? Are they sharing on those profiles – things other than promotions? Do they respond to posts, questions or comments? Are they engaging, having conversations or have ghost profiles? Do they respond to services issues via social media? Can you call, text, chat or otherwise correspond with a real, live person? Are their key contacts listed with bios, photos, and contact information? Can you connect with their leadership on LinkedIn or twitter?
What is the customer experience?
Inquiry – Is it easy to ask questions or request to be contacted?
Sales Approach – Is it obvious or clear what the next steps are in the sales process, what to expect as far as follow up or information given/exchanged?
Presentation/Proposal/Solutions – Does their sales presentation or sales proposal speak specifically to you? Do they customize or collaborate with you for the best solutions?
Service – What service levels can you expect? Who is your team and what is their experience? Do they show or demonstrate how their service is centered around the customer?
What are their customers saying about them?
Do you find reviews and referrals that give you clues as to how their customers feel about them? Do you get a sense of who LOVES them or what the most common complaints are? If you search them, do you see some word of mouth referrals and mentions on social media or around the web?
And what do you do with this Competitive Intelligence?
Compare how DIFFERENTLY you do it from your competitors.
After you “assess”, maybe you “obsess” – not about the competition, but about how a customer perceives and experiences you! Do you clearly and quickly let future customers know who you are, how you’re different and what they can expect from you? How do you show up at every touch point of their experience?
Seriously. Make it ALL ABOUT THE CUSTOMER – with deference to where the competitor is missing opportunities or saying the same thing as everyone else. Find your lane – heck, MAKE your lane and be the only one driving in it so those customers who truly want what you have to offer can efficiently find you, connect with you and CHOOSE you. Conduct smart Competitive Intelligence so you can’t be compared, won’t be duplicated, and cannot be replaced.
Until next time, stop hoping, start SELLING!