How do You Handle Competition in Your Small Biz?

20 Nov

This is a subject that has been running around in my head for a few months now. I’ve been working with a few little businesses who have been dogged by various competition based issues and it’s always interesting to see how differently people handle these things.

I have always been very pro-competition. It is something I have embraced throughout my business life. Some of you may find this crazy, but some of my ‘competitors’ have actually become good friends. I have been a mentor to small business owners who are running businesses that will operate in ‘competition’ with me … yes, I really have!

Over the last couple of months there has been what appears to be a national shortage of candle making supplies in Australia. It has been a very frustrating time for many of us as we approach one of the busiest periods of the year. I am fortunate enough to belong to a great Facebook group of candle and soap makers and it has been a joy to see them help each other out with information during this difficult time. I have also been able to directly help some of my more local ‘competitors’ when they have run out of supplies that they need urgently and I have excess of those supplies. I’m sure that now many of my readers will be shaking their heads and denouncing me as a complete nutter: ‘Why on earth would she want to give her competitors supplies?’

Well, the way I see it – and so will you I hope, if you stop and think for a moment – is that whilst on the face of it we appear to be competitors, the reality is that we each have slightly different products and therefore our target markets are vastly different. For example, my candles are uncoloured, limited in fragrance selections, feature labelling that is clean lined and unobtrusive. One of my ‘competitors’ offers brightly coloured candles in masses of fragrances and packaged/decorated with loads of bling. Another likes pastel shades and to pretty up her candles with paper and ribbons. Do you really think the same customer is going to be attracted to all of us? The answer is most definitely ‘No’.

BUT the good thing is that when a customer comes to me and says ‘Oh, I want it coloured in blue and in a different fragrance’, I can say ‘Sorry, I don’t do that but my colleague Suzy at Coloured Candles RUS** would be more than happy to do that for you’. That customer goes away with a good feeling about me and my business, gets the product that she wants and when her friend who likes minimalistic decor is looking for candles, it will be my name that jumps to mind first. My competitor gets a new customer but also has warm feelings towards me. It’s a win win scenario.

how_do_you_handle_competition

Yes, I could have gained the customer for myself and ‘just this once’ provided them with the product they wanted. But they are going to keep coming back and wanting something different and putting me out every single time and I’m going to start having negative feelings towards them. So, far better to point them in the direction of someone who already does all that stuff. Plus, of course, my competitor is going to have her nose put out of joint if she perceives my change of branding a direct attack on her.

Why invite conflict where there doesn’t need to be any? Why sacrifice your own business branding for the sake of a customer who doesn’t fit your perfect customer profile?  Why encourage sabotage attacks when you could ultimately be able to help each other out?

Food for thought!

Now get out there and embrace your competition 🙂

Jane x

** Coloured Candles RUS is a completely made up name. My apologies if there really is a company out there that goes by this name!

PS. If you don’t have a perfect customer profile, you probably don’t have a brand either and maybe you should give that some thought too 🙂

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