Let’s say you’re the owner of Charlie’s Flowers, a lovely little downtown shop that sells…well, plants and cut flowers. Your name is probably Charlie, and you’ve been in business for six years. You know that to keep your shop profitable, you need to do three things: offer a great product, provide great service – and know what your competition is up to.
But… just who is your competition?
Sally’s Floral Shop two blocks over and Flowers for You in the next town are clearly competitors. They both sell plants and flowers, offer similar services, and target the same market – yours.
But how about Sensational Sweets and their delicious homemade fudge and chocolates? Or the gift shop around the corner? Or even the new Italian restaurant – and an anniversary dinner out instead of a dozen roses? The list goes on, actually, and includes any business that competes for gift and special occasion dollars.
So, what does that mean?
It means you have to periodically evaluate how fast your business is growing – and then ask and answer some basic questions.
- Do you have more customers and higher revenue than last year? If not, some competitor somewhere is saying “yes” to that question. So, think about what new markets you might tap. Maybe you could provide the centerpieces for dinners at the local event center, or cross sell with some businesses whose services and products complement yours. You could ask the local gift store to sell some of your flower arrangements – and you could feature some of its ceramic vases in your shop.
- Is your customer service so good it knocks out the competition, both direct and indirect? If not, how could it be?
- Does your advertising make your business stand out in the minds of potential customers? Do you have a consistent look and message?
- Are you thinking about your customers’ future needs? What are the trends in your business? What could you do that’s new and different? Even M&Ms gave us a new reason to pay attention – now you can buy them with customized messages printed on them.
It’s worth the time it takes to list your competition – direct and indirect – and then to think about how your business stacks up. Ask and answer some important questions – and then act on those answers.
And remember…if your product or service doesn’t have any competition, it probably doesn’t have a market either.