In the wild, animals have an instinctual urge to kill their competitors, or at the very least run them out of their territory (think male lions). In the business world attitudes are somewhat similar, possibly even more brutal. But is your competition the real enemy or could you be doing something more?
There are those who make lemonade and others who use the lemons to squirt their competitors in the eye, thus wasting a perfectly good lemon (or opportunity). Others believe that businesses who are perfoming better than theirs are simply lucky and “If I could get rid of the competition, then my business would be successful.”
So, if it really all comes down to luck, what makes a person lucky in business?
PROVIDING A QUALITY PRODUCT OR SERVICE
Ask yourself, is the product that I’m selling widely known to be the best quality? If it’s tools you’re selling, is it a brand your target market knows and trusts or do your customers keep coming back with complaints? If it’s professional services you’re selling, do you have a reputation for being up to date with the latest changes, can people trust in the advice they are paying you for? If you’re in the food industry, are people talking about your fresh ingredients, does the state of your premises give the impression that food safety is a top priority? Reputation spreads quickly. If you’re not providing a quality product or service, most people won’t give you the opportunity to disappoint them personally, they’ll happily take someone else’s word for it.
MAKE YOUR CUSTOMER FEEL WELCOME & APPRECIATED
We all have bad days, but being successful in business means when you’re at work you are performing the starring role in the play and customers are paying good money to enjoy the show. We insist our employees leave their personal problems at the door but forget that the same rules apply to the business owner too. If your business requires you to give quotes over the phone, answer that call with enthusiasm and be eager to help. If you have a shop or an office, greet your customers with a welcoming smile and a handshake. If time permits, ask them how they’ve been and treat every person as though they are your favourite customer. When they leave, thank them for their business and show them that you appreciate the opportunity they have given you. If you do this in a sincere way, they will believe you. Treat your customers the way you would like to be treated.
GIVE VALUE FOR MONEY
Value can mean different things for different industries. Find out what your customers value most. Is it a freebie every once in a while? Is it faster service or turn-around? Is it speaking to a person rather than a machine? Is it the ability to get an answer at short notice. You may have quoted a price then given a surprise discount. When we exceed expectation we are giving value for money. Know what your customer expects of you, then try to go one better.
FAIR REMUNERATION & APPRECIATION TO YOUR STAFF
Just because you pay their wage doesn’t mean you are free to bully or humiliate subordinates. Staff turn-over is one of the biggest turn-offs for your customers. Always speak respectfully to your staff, pay them fairly and recognise the good work they do by acknowledging it to their face, to your customers and/or fellow team members as often as you can. Showing your sincere appreciation costs you absolutely nothing, yet it is one of the most valuable attributes you can possess. Yes, you pay them to work, but what if your kind words could inspire them to be a positive role model to younger employees, to speak highly of you and your brand to your customers and be a loyal and reliable person who you can trust when you’re not there? Happy employees almost always mean happy customers, but you might just find that they also make for happy employers too.
Remember, your competition are not the enemy, nor are they just ‘lucky’. Look inside first and if you’ve ticked all the above boxes and still feel that your competition are genuinely doing something amazing that might improve your service or product offering, talk to your team about how it might be implemented and work together to tick that box too. If you don’t have a team, talk to your business advisor. It’s easier to make small adjustments as things crop up than it is to get unhappy staff working harder for you, or customers that don’t like or trust you to buy your products and services.
Skinner Hamilton offer half-day business development sessions for you and your team which covers all of the above. These few hours of focussed attention on your business can do wonders in separating you from your competition.