If you compete head-to-head with your competition, you may win or lose. If you compete by being different, you stand out—and that's a win.
Over the years I've talked with many clients who are looking for ways to disrupt a competitor and/or win more business from existing customers. When we dig deep, I've found many clients are trying to compare themselves directly with their competitors. They want to make sure they offer at least what their competition is offering. It's not that they're trying to keep up. It's that they are trying to not be outdone by their competition.
While I'm not excited about saying, "I want to be as good as them," I'm willing to accept that this can at least be a starting point. The next step is to improve on whatever the competition is doing. I have written about this in the past. You can benchmark with your competition, but just use that as the starting point. And, more than just being better, can you offer something that the customer can't get from the competitor. In other words, can you offer something that is different and makes you stand out?
Growing up we learned that different can be difficult. Different isn't good. You're taught that you want to fit in. But, in business, you want to be different—as long as what makes you different is something the customer wants and appreciates. You want to be known for something.
There are some great brands that are best known for one trait—that one trait that makes them different.
- Volvo is known for safety. They are not known for high-speed performance cars, nor do they choose to compete in that world.
- Huntington Bank differentiated themselves by extending the hours of operation. The recognized traditional hours were not convenient for the typical banking customer, so they extended their hours, staying open later during the week and being open on Saturdays.
- Ace Hardware stores are not nearly as big as their big-box competitors. They separated themselves by promoting that they are smaller, which makes it easier for their customers to get in and get out. They also pride themselves on a different brand of customer service they refer to as "helpful service."
- Southwest Airlines is known for low fares, not charging for checked bags and no change fees. They are not known for having cushy first-class seats and meal service.
- Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches is a typical sandwich shop that delivers, but what makes them different—and what they advertise—is how fast they deliver. In their words, they are Freaky Fast.
So, what makes you different? Is it obvious? Do your customers know about this big difference? Do they care about the difference? Answer those questions and you will be competing on another level—a different level!
Shep Hyken is a customer service expert, keynote speaker, and New York Times bestselling business author. For information, contact 314-692-2200 or www.hyken.com. For information on The Customer Focus™ customer service training programs, go to www.thecustomerfocus.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken
Photo courtesy of Shep Hyken.