Be different to your competitors

by Leigh Wallinger.

Wherever you look, there are companies who all appear to be the same.  The danger for all small businesses which look similar to their competitor(s) is that prospects will immediately use price as the differentiator.  If all else is identical, people will buy from the cheapest supplier.

However, being the cheapest puts you in a vulnerable position.  Your prices can be undercut and prospects will quickly switch to your now cheaper competitor.  To maintain your revenues, you have to reduce your prices further – and your profitability suffers badly.

Put yourself in your prospect’s position.  When you are looking to make a purchase it’s easy to check on the Internet which suppliers are providing the best value for money.  Even if you have a preferred supplier in mind, it’s always worth checking if there is an alternativesupplier offering better value.

If you look the same as other suppliers, the best you can achieve is a sale at the lowest price.It is insane forso many small business owners toposition their companies as a “me-too” supplier.

By pointing to the differences between you and your competitors, it becomes much harder for prospects to draw you into a damaging price-war.  Therefore, it is essential that small business owners find the time to design and establish some differentiators that are meaningful to their prospects.

Doing this will represent a good investment of your time because you will end up with demonstrable reasons to resist any price pressures.Whenever prospects ask you to match the price of a cheaper competitor you cansimply point to your differentiators and hold your prices firm.  You justify the prices you are charging and show prospects why they are not comparing like with like.

You could say something like “The reason we charge what we do is because we provide x and y.  We are the only company to do this and consequently our prices are a little higher”.  Not every prospect will want your extra value (the “x” and “y”).  In these cases, your cheaper competitors will win the business and you should review how you qualifyyour prospects.

This shows why it is important to find differentiators that your prospects find of value and will want included in their purchase.

Naturally, when they become aware of your prospect-attracting differentiators, your competitors will begin working on ways to neutralise your advantage – especially if they start losing sales because of their shortcomings.  It makes sense, therefore, to develop differentiators that are hard for your competitors to imitate.

This is why using differentiators such as a low price or an extended guarantee don’t offer any real,long-term advantage.  A competitor can quickly match your price or the terms of your guarantee and neutralise your advantage.  You want to establish differentiation in areas where competitors will be disadvantaged for several months – until they work out how to match what you are offering.

The most difficult differentiators for your competitors to match are those built around the experience and expertise of your employees.

Even if you are a one-man company, it is possible to be unique in your chosen markets.  Let’s say your company specialises in renovating Jaguar cars from the 1950s.  This is a passion of yours and you’ve been renovating Jaguars for the past 20 years.  You know the issues, the problems, who to turn to for spare parts and where to go for the best respray paint job.

Your focus, knowledge, contacts and expertise is something that your competitors can’t match.  They may be bigger, deliver faster and may even cost less than you.  What they can’t offer is the peace of mind and reassurance that comes from dealing with an expert in Jaguar renovations.

Here are five action points that will help you develop meaningful points of difference.

  1. Become known as an expert in your field.  This takes time and writing is the best way to achieve this.
  2. If you have other employees, develop those who could become recognised experts in their own right.
  3. Ask your clients why they chose to buy from you, what did they like about you and how can you improve?
  4. Find out what they like best about your product /service and what they least like.
  5. Ask your clients what they like best about your competitors’ products / services.  Don’t spend too much time on this point as you don’t want them thinking too much about your competitors!

Use what you learn to be different and better than your competitors.

 

Leigh Wallinger knows the problems that every small business owner encounters when trying to establish and grow a small business.  After 30+ years’ experience he now helps small business owners to grow their businesses.  Contact him by email (enquiries at salesmadeeasy.co.uk) or via www.salesmadeeasy.co.uk

© Arteka Limited 2012. All rights reserved.

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