Photo Credit John Greenwood, Rock Island Argus Online
The day after Christmas I read the local newspaper from my husband’s hometown and was overcome with sadness as I read an article about an 85 year old family-owned business that was liquidating after the holidays. Generations had put their sweat and lives into the store, and it won’t be around for future generations to take pride of ownership in. I love family-owned businesses and the personal touch they provide. You are unlikely to get this personal touch from a chain store. This family didn’t know how to handle the marketing issues that arose at that particular time or how to make others see the value in what they were offering.
According to the store owner, in the new economy they just couldn’t compete with the big box retailers who could service their clients at a lower price. Then I realized this company failed to learn the lessons we teach every day at The Joy of Marketing. When you fail to differentiate your business from the competition, whether it be on customer service, products, or some other dimension your customers find value in, you put yourself in at a price.
While I don’t know much about the business practices of the business in this article, it’s a pretty safe bet they failed to adapt. Their strategy was likely to sell the same products to the same customers who they used to have loyalty from, using the same marketing vehicles they had always used in the past. They didn’t see the signs successful businesses saw when Wal-Mart started coming into town.
Business changed. People want more value for their dollar. And if you don’t provide something unique – either a product they can’t get elsewhere or a level of service they can’t get elsewhere – you’ll lose the battle every single day. Because you’ll be forced to compete on price. And when it comes to competing on price, there is always someone who can go lower than you can afford to.
I’m still sad to see that a local institution has gone out of business. But what I’m more sad about is that they didn’t see the signs. If you can’t say with confidence what makes your business different and why someone should invest more with you than the competition, figure it out NOW. Before it’s too late.