Who Are You Scaring?
One of the most significant, though least recognized aspects of business is competition – specifically, the role competitors play in the success or failure of your company.
I've found that far too many folks see what they do as being isolated from the outside world – especially the outside world that's involved in similar lines of business.
For example, many of the tackle retailers I talk to on a daily basis seem to think in terms of "I'm selling (fill in the blank)...those guys aren't really in the same business." Really? Because the last time I checked, consumers don't much mind where a product comes from, provided they can consistently find what they need, have it delivered in a timely fashion and get adequate customer service in the process.
The I-don't-really-have-competition notion is best suited for those who're prepared for going out of business. In fact, not only should you have a healthy respect for competitors, but you should strive to ensure they have a sincere fear of your business. No matter which business you're in, what size it is or whom you cater to, if you aren't putting a little fear in the competition, you aren't doing something right.
Why is that important? If opponents fear your business, that likely means (a) you're doing something right and (b) you're hitting them in their wheelhouse and threatening their core business.
Gaining this respect isn't especially difficult, either.
Here's a simple tip you can steal from the playbook of some of the most successful businesses: Sell them on products, wow them with service.
Sounds really simple, right? It is simple, in theory. The execution's where most companies go wrong. Let's say you're a small retailer who does a solid job of offering the products your core consumers want. The next, and most important step is to keep them happy and returning through great customer service. The smartest outfits capture as much information as possible from consumers – brands a customer is most loyal to, where he usually buys most of his products, how much she typically spends – then create a profile that allows the outfit to more accurately market to those customers in the future. While this sounds complicated, it's not. Believe me.
Once you have this information, you can update specific customers regarding sales, offer them discounts for shopping at certain times or for buying a certain number of products and invite them into your store for customer-appreciation nights. The key here is level of contact: The more often you can stay engaged with your core consumers, the less of an opening you leave for your competition. To put it crudely, you're basically "training" your customer to be loyal to your store by highlighting the fact that he or she doesn't need to go anywhere else.
Trust me when I say that as long as you focus on products alone, you aren't scaring anyone. You need to have products and keep them consistently in stock for consumers to visit your outfit with any regularity. But then, as the saying goes, "Products bring them in, service ultimately brings them back."
(Photo courtesy of dommylive.)