Big retailers are finding it more and more difficult to apply the same operational modalities and mindsets they used to grow their businesses in today’s market, and it’s easy to see why. The internet has provided opportunities for consumers to buy the same products cheaper and more conveniently. Where once they may have been the only game in town, today they are one of many options. Some businesses, known as giants in their industries, are finding that their once tried and true methods of attracting consumers aren’t working as well as they used to. It’s no wonder. As they’ve grown they’ve become so top heavy that they can’t begin to change at the speed at which they first started to grow. (We’ve all joked about corporate structure and the need to hold a meeting to determine whether or not to hold a meeting).
Their old reliable strategies of pushing particular products, expanding their market reach, trying to undercut their competitors or perhaps even trying to out-think them, is often ill-advised or too little too late. It doesn’t work today. It takes too long. Some companies have achieved varying degrees of success, by choosing to become ‘known’ for something other than their products. Some who have done this successfully include: Nordstrom (customer service), Walmart (cheap pricing), Disney (the happiness factor). They had the time and the money to invest. One saving grace for big business, especially those that are product based has been their ability to expand their offerings to include web sales.
We can’t compete with them. But you know something? They can’t compete with us either! We’re agile. We’re personal, and we understand that customers are people and not numbers in electronic ledgers.
Yet, small businesses still look at big businesses as their prime competition, and e-based businesses (Amazon and Zappos for example) as big hairy apes about to swallow them up. Are those valid fears?
If that’s how you choose to look at it, yes. But there’s a better way. Let’s reframe that picture.
Statistics show that customers will go to the internet to get information about how to make a purchasing decision. Sometimes they will buy there, but oftentimes it’s just commodity items. Other goods – things they care about – will be purchased in person. They need to ‘see for themselves.’ They want the ‘hands on’ experience.’ That means shopping locally.
Those that purchase on line, will likely never be your market. So the reality is that it all comes back to you: who you are, what you stand for and your differentiator: what you provide that other local businesses who do directly compete for your market do not provide.
Why should you be the preferred choice? In other words, what experience would they be losing out on, if you were not here?
Think about that. Just remember that while you’re busy figuring that out, your other small business competitors are asking themselves the same thing!
Here are some questions you should consider. Along with assessing your own strengths and weaknesses, think about how your competition may be answering them about themselves and in terms of their competition – YOU.
- Why do our customers come to us, rather than ______________?
- Why would customers shop at ______________ rather than us?
- What do we provide that _____________ doesn’t?
- What does ____________ provide that we don’t?
- What does ________________ provide that’s better than us?
- What would it take for us to incorporate some of that into what we do?
- Could we do better?
- Are our customer’s needs the same or different than they once were? In what way?
- Has our market changed?
- Are we missing an opportunity to provide more value?
- Are they getting more value elsewhere?
- Where? Do we have new/different competitors?
Never forget that regardless of what type of business you own, it’s all about service. It’s never about numbers. It’s always about people. And when it comes down to people, it’s personal. Although one size never fits all, you create a perfect fit, one customer at a time.