Running a small business will never leave you short on challenges and obstacles. One of the greatest challenges is being successful in a crowded market.
Crowded markets are high-competition industries. Buyer’s markets. These areas are great for the consumer, as the competition drives down costs and really forces each business to put on their Sunday-best, as they fight for sales, subscribers, and whatever else it is they’re after.
The key to surviving in these types of markets is setting your business head-and-shoulders above the rest. You have to stand out, and there are many ways to do that. It’s not about who has the flashiest advertisements; this process involves using everything at your disposal, going balls-to-the-wall every day, and refusing to back down.
It’s going to take motivation, and no small amount of wisdom. Here’s a look at key steps you can take to launch your idea in a crowded market.
1. Establish a strong differentiator.
The first thing you’re going to need to do is establish a firm business identity. Take, for example, an intercity yoga studio; one of the most competitive markets out there. What is unique that sets you apart from your competition? This is the hardest question, and will take some deep thought, research and consideration.
Here are a few examples that I used to market a building supplies store and differentiate them from their competition, Home Depot.
Smaller businesses can offer a “personal touch” and personalized experience to customers. We had the time and resources to get rare and hard-to-find inventory by request . We had the knowledge to guide a customer who knew nothing about his DIY project . We were willing to try and beat prices if you showed us a competitor’s quote . Our construction lumber (Douglas Fir) was of higher quality than Home Depot’s (White Pine) .
2. Next, you’ll want to identify your target.
Get as specific as possible. Using the yoga studio referenced above, as an example, your shop might cater more toward the beginner, or it might be geared to the needs of an advanced yogi. While you might be able to serve both types of clients, marketing with a targeted message to either one will increase its effectiveness. Where a yoga studio targeting beginners might run an ad promoting a free class, a studio targeting more advanced yoga enthusiasts would offer a free 1-month incentive for an annual membership.
3. Become more customer-centric.
If you’re in a really competitive market, your customers have the choice of any fish in the sea. So if they’re using you at the moment, you’ll want to make sure the don’t just like you; they have to love you. You’ll want to chase their affections like a crush on Valentine’s Day. Take the time to learn their names, be responsive, ensure an effortless customer experience and make an effort to build a relationship outside of your business.
Little things can go a long way. Run giveaway campaigns, offer membership rewards or punch-cards. Ask customers how they’re doing. Keep in constant contact. Start and utilize your email list. And don’t just send useless advertorials; create useful or informational content on a consistent basis.
Create an incentivized opportunity for every single customer to sign up and keep the conversation going. This includes your company website, point of sale signage and more. Make it known that you’re on social media and invite customers to follow you.
4. Let your customers work for you.
I don’t mean let them hop behind the register so you can go out to lunch! A satisfied customer will be your best salesperson through word-of-mouth referrals, but we’re gonna take that concept one step further. Encourage customers to post about their experience with your business on social media.
For example, if you’re running an Instagram promotion, for the best results run a time-bound promo and offer coupons or relevant freebies if they post a photo of your product or service and tag you. Most importantly, makes sure your promotions are easy to understand. If you cannot explain a promotion in 10 words or less you will have difficulty acquiring buy-in from customers. When you tap into the power of your crow, you access their extended network and build stronger bonds.
Building strong relationships with your customers will be your ultimate weapon, when competing in a crowded market. At the end of the day, it’s really all about them; if they’re on your team, there’s nothing that can stop you.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Joe Lawrence is a real estate investor, small business owner, and business credit coach. The thing he loves most about his work is when someone comes up to him and shares how helpful he’s been. Joe also offers free credit advice and how-to’s at his website, Business Credit Workshop.
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