“Anywhere you are visibly and simultaneously pitted against other providers of similar goods or services you abdicate much of your income and control to others.”
~ Dan Kennedy
An authority in any field occupies a special place in the hearts and minds of people who care about this problem. They are more likely to be listened to, more likely to be obeyed, and more likely to have a steady stream of clients working on their terms and willingly paying whatever prices they charge.
This puts them in a whole different ball park to most businesses, but, many business owners and decision-makers choose to stay with the crowd because they don’t understand the consequences of their decision.
What Do Survivor, Masterchef, and Spartans Have In Common with Business?
Survivor, Masterchef, and Spartans are all cut-throat competitions played on a level field with only one winner. Once you enter the competition you are bound to play by the rules and the last person (or team) standing is the winner.
Many business owners choose to run their business on the same lines. They choose their field, look at their competitors, and aim to be better. Their initial goal is to take a sufficient slice of the market to survive and then to build out that market share steadily.
It’s a tough road to travel! Like the competitors in Survivor, Masterchef, and Spartans, you need passion, dedication, stamina, knowledge, and the ability to stay one-step-ahead of any threats. Mostly, you rely on incremental improvements and differences so you’re closely following the activities of others in your industry and hoping you can keep up or even get ahead. Your time, energy, and emotions are always tied up in knots and you can’t afford to step back and get some air.
You Could Choose a Different Path for Your Business…
I find it fascinating when I talk to business owners who have chosen to follow what I call the ‘Imitate Your Competition’s Tactics Model’ of business and who are struggling to attract qualified clients.
Last week I spoke to three separate business owners about their marketing campaigns and I was saddened to see where this model had led them (desperation, frustration, and self-doubt). You see, business owners are the lifeblood of the Australian economy and I want to see them succeed beyond their wildest dreams, but the copycat model doesn’t help them do that.
See if this advice sounds familiar…
- Look at your industry and carefully observe what your competitors are offering;
- Create a competing offer that adds some extra benefit;
- Copy their key words so that you both show up in the same searches;
- Copy their social media and advertising campaigns so you both show up on the same newsfeeds and sponsored opportunities;
- Do everything you can to create an incremental advantage… and keep playing leapfrog.
It’s safe. It contains a lot of pieces of the truth. BUT… It’s incredibly stressful!
The reality is that if you jump straight to tactics (or even strategies) in your marketing rather than building on core principles then you will probably waste a lot of money, yet that is just what most business owners do when they need a boost in sales.
I believe that comprehensive information about your competition is essential, but I believe that true business success and truly innovative marketing requires you to start by establishing who you are and how you are different.
Why ‘Different’ Beats ‘Better’ as Your Goal in Business
‘Better’ is constantly under threat. Think of your:
- Search Engine Rankings;
- Ad Spend;
- Social Media Metrics (likes, shares, follows etc.);
- Bonus offerings;
- Pricing and discounts;
- Loyalty program…
You can’t take your eye off the ball for a moment or suddenly you are left out in the cold and your competition is getting all the eyeballs, clicks, and sales.
‘Different’ is a defining statement. #MeToo doesn’t really create confidence as a business branding option. When you focus on what makes you different you create opportunities to:
- Direct the conversation about your product or service;
- Sustain premium prices;
- Form the thinking about your offering;
- Create relationships with prospects and buyers;
- Appear in places your competition never shows up;
- Make your competitors irrelevant!
When your new customers come to you from the same channels as those all your competitors use then you always need to be on the alert for threats and challenges to your prosperity. When you create a separate category for your business then you control your customer flow, your pricing, and ultimately your destiny.
Far From the Maddening Crowd…
Imagine you have decided that you want to take advantage of Australian Tax Law and invest in property. You are looking for information and possibly coaching on the subject so you type ‘how to successfully invest in Australian property’ into Google. Instantly you have tens of thousands of sites to trawl through and you’ll see the ones who are spending the most on SEO and advertising on the first few pages.
It’s not a happy place if your business is providing property investment advice because you are competing with similar businesses in a location where larger budgets have all the advantages of visibility. But, perhaps you have already defined yourself as the property investment specialists for Self Managed Super Funds and you’ve tailored your offering to a specific segment of that market… you can ask a different series of questions:
- What else interests my target market?
- What do they listen to on the radio?
- What do they watch on TV?
- What books or magazines do they read?
- What movies do they watch?
- What conferences, events, etc. do they attend?
Suddenly, your Google ranking becomes irrelevant. You have a list of places where you can inform, advertise, and sell to your target market that your competitors aren’t investing in. You’re not part of the crowd, you are in a category of ONE! You are the authority for your target market and if you go further and define the terms they use in conversation about property investment, when they do go to Google and search for your terms, you’ll show up on a VERY SHORT list!
Does This Really Work?
Last September I went to the Royal Melbourne Agricultural Show and (of course) several of the pavilions featured a variety of products for sale. Some of the same products were available in several pavilions and it was interesting to compare results. The 2 food vendors in with the homewares significantly outperformed their colleagues in the food pavilion. The portable air-conditioning vendors were doing a roaring trade (on an item that would be overlooked at most of the big retailers). The only booth that really wasn’t doing well was the bed vendor… mostly because the person in charge when we visited had no interest in serving customers at all.
The point is that they showed up out-of-category and therefore they were a conspicuous choice. The biggest fault… they were focused on the sale ‘right now’ not on developing and nurturing a long-term relationship with prospects.
Additional examples include:
- Pro-Activ which generates far more sales from TV and magazine than from it’s stalls in department stores;
- The Travel Agent who shows up at the ski exhibition and interests people in their travel packages featuring skiing (as well as cruises and more);
- A timber window restoration service which offers free information, classes and webinars on peak hour radio;
- The Private School which shows up in the new-baby-bag at certain hospitals in Melbourne with an information package (5-12 years before parents will send them there).
The point is that building and marketing your business based on what your competitors are doing is the route to an endlessly stressful experience, but there is another way: you could market your business based on what makes you different, choose your arena, and set your own rules (and prices)!