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What’s your competition?

If you are in business, you have to face competition.

There is no avoiding it. Your competition is the barrier to your growth.

It may not be a significant barrier, perhaps your competition is weak and doesn’t take too many of your potential customers away. Or it might be a big barrier and you have to compete every day for that new customer or to keep your existing customer.

Either way, I bet you are fighting your competition the wrong way.

Yup, I said it – it’s more than likely that what you are doing to win against the competition isn’t helping much!

Why? Because when most of us think about competing, we think about being better than them. If you were an athlete you’d try to be stronger or faster. In business, you try to be cheaper, or give a better service, or send out a more attractive message in your advertising.

All that we are trained to do is to beef up what we do.

However competition is not about a better product or better advertising. Competition is about who or what is influencing your customer.

This doesn’t mean that you can beat your competition with a crap product! Now make sure you hear me right!

What I mean is that you can have the better product but if you are not influencing your customer, then the one who does will sell more to them. You can have the better advertising campaign, but if their ears are attuned to someone else influencing them, the better advertising campaign will not necessarily attract them over to you.

So improve your product, make sure it is better. Get your message out there, make sure it talks about the benefits of your product better than your competitor’s messages. But look after the influencers too.

What do I mean “influencers”?

These are the people, or channels, or things that your customers listen to and are influenced by. Depending on your customer, this might be social media where their “friends” and “connections” are all talking about a certain brand or a certain product. This might be an influential speaker or blogger in the industry with strong opinions about the market. There are different influencers for different market demographic segments, and you need to know yours.

I’ll give you an example.

Who today has not looked up a review of a restaurant before they make a booking? Chances are you may have heard of the restaurant from a few friends, but you’ve never been there and you want to find out more about it. The friends you heard from are not particularly foodies so they don’t necessarily influence you. So what do you do? You Google the restaurant.

Chances are you find their website, and it looks good. Google may even provide a hit on an advertisement, and it is appealing.

But you can be assured Google will also list TripAdvisor  or some similar online review where the citizen reviewer leaves reviews, and you see lots of bad reviews.

Don’t ask me why, but despite your friends’ recommendations, despite the website and the advertising, you think twice. That’s the effect of the influencer in the restaurant industry.

So, who are your industry’s influencers? You need to get to know them and create a strategy to use them in your favour.

Take the restaurant review site. If that is the influencer in your industry, you can do two things. First you can make sure you don;t do anything that can get a bad review. Second, get on that website! Reply to every review good or bad. Thank the good reviewers. Commiserate with the bad reviewers and apologise – explain what happened, not as an excuse but offer it as an explanation and accept that you need to improve. Invite them back for a complimentary drink with their next meal. Go all out to show the reader (not necessarily the bad reviewer, you probably lost them) that you care, you are trying hard to improve and provide excellence, and that their views matter.

You will be surprised how you can turn a negative into a positive.

The point is, competition is not just about what you sell, it’s about how you sell. It’s about ensuring your ducks are all lined up and channels and people who influence your customers’ buying decisions are on your side, or make you look good.

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