Photo courtesy of Sally M from Flickr.
We’re not big advocates of focusing too much on your competitors as it can be a slippery slope that causes you to lose sight of your own business. Yet I hear from many small business owners who struggle with determining what piece of the pie is yours to take. How can you compete for business in your market and win, without focusing on price?
Instead of copying exactly what your competitors are doing, why not adopt a new small business strategy and look at what they can’t do or aren’t willing to do? Opportunity lies in places where your competitors have decided they can’t or don’t want to play where potential clients have a need.
In my city there is a cute clothing store that isn’t open on Sundays and closes at 5pm each day. Unfortunately for me, the times they are open aren’t very convenient for me. Instead, when I am looking for something unique, I often shop online rather than rearranging my schedule to shop in the middle of the day at this store. An opportunity exists for a similar women’s clothing boutique to cater to working women who would appreciate later weekday and weekend shopping hours.
On the flip side, there is an optometrist
in my city who takes appointments one Saturday a month. Talk about convenient! He identified an opportunity where his competitors weren’t willing to go and is profiting from it.
When you’re looking for places your competitors won’t go, bring in outsiders to help you. Get on the phone or visit their location (or have an intern) and investigate the boundaries of what your competitors are and are not willing to do.
Here are the kinds of things you’re looking for:
1) For 30 years your competitor has touted that they have the lowest prices in town, so there is no way they can offer a premium product because they would discredit everything they have communicated for years.
2) Maybe they have touted that they only hire local employees so therefore they can’t bring in a hot new talent and a fresh perspective from outside your market.
3) Maybe they are a family-owned business with conservative values and therefore can’t offer flashy, somewhat provocative products.
4) Many companies have very strong relationships with certain suppliers. If they have been the leading seller of a certain supplier’s products for many, many years it will be hard for your competitor to offer a new product line and put a lot of marketing effort behind it without upsetting their top supplier.
5) Your competitor may be bound by a union or some type of structural limitation where you can step in and offer services that they can not.
There are many opportunities that exist for you to own a piece of your market without having to copy your competitors. Start by looking at what your competitors can’t or aren’t willing to do. Then figure out what’s missing is something the market wants and that you can offer – maybe even for a premium!
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