Running a business is hard enough when things are going well and you are selling all you could hope to sell. Regardless of whether you sell a product or service, and even if you were first to market, if it’s worth selling there will be competition because others will want to get a piece of the pie.
So how do you stay ahead? You have to differentiate yourself from other organizations in some way. This is hard to do in a service business and even harder if you sell a product that someone else produces. I remember when I started my first IT service business in 1997. Our tag line was “Your Partner in Technology”. Nobody was saying that they wanted to be “partners with their clients” at the time and I even got harassed by my friends saying, “who are you, a cowboy? Hey Partner!”. The basis of my business is that we care about our customer’s businesses and want to be part of the team that helps them become successful. Sound familiar? Now every service business says that. And while it still may be a true facet of how you operate your business, it’s table stakes at this point because even if every organization doesn’t do it, they say that they do which means it will be eliminated as a decision factor by prospects who don’t know differently.
All of a sudden our differentiator was gone from a sales perspective, so we needed to find a new one. This happened over and over again and our key to continued success was continuing to change. The way to eliminate your competition is by continuing to evaluate how you do business and what your market is looking for. You need to ask your clients what they are looking for that you are not providing and determine if you can provide it. Always looks for new ways to deliver your product or service that add value to your clients and prospects. Remember, its not about you, its about them.
As difficult as change is for businesses, those who don’t change with the desires of their target market will quickly die off. If you have an attractive market there is always someone else who will want to come in and provide your product or service for a lower cost. You need to find ways to make your offering different so you can not be compared in an apples to apples price comparison. Ask yourself why people buy from you. If any of your local competition can say the same thing, then its not a differentiator. Keep asking the question until you find you secret sauce.
Michael Giuffrida from Southington CT has been operating businesses since 1997. He is an experienced entrepreneur in business management, profitable growth, business valuation, mergers and acquisitions, and information technology managed services.