Consider two doughnut shops. At the beginning, they both sell quality products and are successful. As time passes, Shop A has lines out the door and is selling more than ever, while Shop B switches to a lower quality flour and oil due to low sales. What went wrong? Many things — like chance — can factor into success, but there are many things that business owners can do that can make or break their shop.
1. Understand your customer – What are their particular needs? What is important to them? Do they value price and accessibility over quality and service? Do they regard the story behind the product/service? When you list detail on what you’re selling, make sure to note that what you have to offer may serve all kinds of customers. If this doesn’t serve all customers, be specific in what you do offer.
The more you know about your customer and their needs, the better prepared you will be to connect with them.
2. Research your competition – Who else is offering the same product as you? Are there other products that are similar to yours that also satisfy your customer’s needs? Can you find newer ways to meet their wants and needs?
Keep an eye for spaces in markets or ares where your competition is not able to fill that gap.
3. Determine your value – What do you excel at? Do you have really high standards on your quality of work? Do you constantly churn out new ideas? How are your customer service skills? Do you like to bring out the best in people? Do you have access to quality sources that are essential to your product/service? Do you know how to find the best sources to deliver a quality product?
Leverage what you may have/know and claim a stake on your market.
4. Establish a business strategy – Once you know your customers and your competition, bringing it all together into a business strategy may be the most difficult part. The best thing about finding a business strategy is there’s no limit to the ways to set yourself apart from others, but some of the most common are:
- Product quality – give access to quality, exclusive, or rare products
- Design – Offering a superior design or cutting-edge aesthetic
- Service – Go above and beyond to ensure you exceed your customer’s expectations
- Innovation – Advancing your product by offering new and unexpected variations on existing products
- Authenticity – Have integrity behind your product
Other ways to differentiate yourself is through personal story, variety in your product line, specialized technology or process, how you make your customer feel, and location.
Whichever decision you go with, the general rules to use when building a strategy should be:
- Make it matter to the buyer
- Customers will tie you to only a few of these strategies
- Make your product difficult for your customers to duplicate
- Be consistent
5. Coordinate your business with your business strategy – What you offer in your product/service should mirror the integrity of what you stand for. Do you use only the most authentic materials? Would you buy what you are selling? Make sure you are telling a consistent story with what you say and what you offer.
On a last note, remember that competition need not be a bad word. It can also mean growth. A true professional does not fear amateurs that are looking to offer the same product. True professionals look on this as a way they can make themselves better.
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