In the old days, companies created standard products and told customers what they needed via mass marketing. Today it’s a bit more complicated. We live in a society with a myriad of choices for even the most mundane items. Just stand in the toothpaste aisle for any length of time and you’ll find yourself overwhelmed with options.
As a marketer, I know that finding ways to stand out from the competition is not always easy. But competition is what helps drive innovative thinking and growth.
Here are a few things you can do to help formulate your strategy to set yourself apart:
Know your brand
To have an effective strategy, you first need to understand what your brand is doing now, what’s working and what’s not. Are you simply filling customer needs or do you look for emerging trends?
Know your competition
Make sure you not only identify direct competitors, but also indirect competitors. Then prepare accordingly. For example, in the hotel industry a hotel chain would look at other hotels that serve their market segment as well as online travel agencies. Verizon Wireless would monitor other competitors like Sprint as well companies like Radio Shack.
Once you’ve identified your competition, you should look for competitive intelligence including market share, advertising and promotion, types of customers, products or services, pricing and management. Make sure you stay on top of what your competition is doing on an ongoing basis. Use this information to help build your own strategy. But don’t just think about what your competitors are doing. Think about what they are NOT doing.
Know your customers and their expectations
You need to understand not only who is buying from you, but also what problems they are trying to solve. Today’s customers are looking for a total experience.
Technology has built a new breed of customers who are not only better informed, but also more impatient. They expect you to respond quickly to their needs. If you don’t you are at risk. For instance, I contacted Apple to help address my connectivity issues with my MacBook Air. I spent $19 to have Customer Care walk me through a series of steps to fix the problem. Afterwards, the problem occurred again. Needless to say I was not happy so I went on Twitter, found someone else looking for recommendations about the MacBook Air, and told them not to buy it.
On the flip side, I had the exact opposite experience with Blitzmetrics. I was testing their really cool tool to create social media dashboards when I needed help. I sent the company an email and received a rapid email response from two people as well as social. They indicated they would go into my account and help set up the dashboard. Now that’s the kind of company I want to do business with!
You have to make it easy to do business with your company. Remember, service and experience are critical factors you must address to stay competitive.