- Published on Friday, 07 September 2012 10:40
No, "R&R" doesn't mean that you need to take your competitors on vacation. It stands for Rank and Research.
Rank Your Competitors
Take the list of competitors (local or online) and put them in the order of how well their business is doing, from best to worst. I know this is just a guess, since they are not going to show you their financials, but it is not hard to tell from the outside how well a business is doing. Look for signs like new locations, expanded floor space and inventory, updated websites and advertising, etc.
Research your Competitors
Take this ordered list you just made and check out the top five competitors.
- Look at their websites.
- What keywords are they using? (Hint: check the meta-tags.)
- How does the design look compared to yours?
- How is it organized?
- What is their "Call to Action"?
- Look at their stores.
- How does yours compare on size, layout and appearance?
- How many locations do they have? Do their locations give them a competitive advantage?
- How do their employees treat customers? Are they knowledgeable?
- Look at their marketing.
- What sort of advertising media do they use? (Both online and local)
- How do they seem to reach new customers?
- What do they do to hold on to existing customers and get repeat business?
You can probably think of even more things to research, based on the kind of business you run.
I recently did some competitive research for a bicycle shop in Central Florida. Since I am a cyclist myself, I was already familiar with most of the local competitors. Here are some of the things I found:
My client's location, in a major shopping mall near the edge of the metro area, had both advantages and problems.
- Advantage - High traffic in mall generates walk-in customers.
- Problem - Location on edge of metro area limited customers likely to find store.
- Problem - Location was not near any gathering spots for cyclist, such as local bike trails.
- Problem - Largest competitor was centrally located and had well established marketing programs to reach both new and repeat customers.
- Advertised on NPR radio.
- Email marketing campaigns.
- Twice yearly major sales.
- Event sponsorship of rides and races.
Against all of this, we found a strategy that could help my client be more competitive. I'll tell you about it next time.
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- Published on Friday, 29 June 2012 11:09
Step 1 - Where are the Customers Hiding?
Many traditional marketing plans start by looking at the media available (magazine advertising, online search marketing, yellow pages, etc.) and trying to figure out how to divide up a marketing budget among them. But let's take a step back. It does no good to advertise in places where your potential customers are not looking? You can shout "Free Beer!" as loudly as you want, but if you are at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting you won't get a very positive response. So where do your customers hide?
I can't give you a simple answer, since it is different for every business. Luckily, I don't have to figure it out,... and neither do you. Somewhere, probably nearby, a successful competitor has probably already done it for you.
Copying a competitor can be a risky strategy, but if you can find one that is doing much better than you, it will pay to pay attention. How and where are they advertising? Do they offer services that you do not? Perhaps most important, how did you find them? It's likely that new customers are finding them the same way.
So here is you homework. Make a list of every business that directly competes with your's for customers. If you have a local pizza shop, that means just the other pizza shops within a few miles (easy driving distance). If you sell bicycles, you are probably competing with all of the other bicycle shops in your city or metro area. If you sell online, you are competing with every other website that offers the same products.
For now, just make the list. Next time we will talk about what to do with it.View / Add Comments
- Published on Monday, 21 May 2012 11:33
Small business owners, particularly those who have been around for a while, tend to think in terms of traditional marketing/advertising media: newspapers, Yellow Pages, billboards, radio and tv ads, etc. They know that new media, such as Internet directories, text messaging, Search Engine Marketing, email, etc., exist, but they are not sure how to fit them into the overal marketing plan. They often respond to the latest salesperson or flyer or email that is pushing some online gimmick (Get listed on Google Page 1! Guaranteed!). This is a big mistake.
A marketing plan needs to be integrated, taking into account the various alternatives, evaluating how effective each one would be for your business (what works for a restaurant won't work for a real estate agent) and assigning your marketing budget accordingly. In the next post I will tell you how to get started.View / Add Comments
- Published on Tuesday, 03 April 2012 16:35
QR for SMB
We've all seen QR (stands for Quick Response) codes. They are those funny looking square patterns that seem the be popping up everywhere. You see tham on advertisements, on product packages, even on store displays. But QR codes are not just for large corporations. You can put them to work for your small business as well.
What is QR?
QR codes, put simply, are a way to print digital information that can be read by almost any smart-phone with a camera (virtually all of them). They have a lot in common with the bar codes we see on almost every product, but they can sore much more complex information. What do they mean? Whatever you want them to. Most QR codes are web addresses (URLs), but they can also store:
- Contact information
- Email addresses
- Locations (geocodes)
- Phone numbers
- Calendar events
Let's look at some ways you can put them to use.
The most obvious use is to put your contact information on your business card in a machine-readable format. Now customers with smart-phones can just scan your information into their contacts database. Most business people put the QR code on the back side of their business card.
You can also put a QR code that leads to your website on flyers and brochures. Add an email registration at your website and you have a great low-cost way to stay in touch with customers and prospects.
But let's be more creative. How about creating a QR code for a real estate "for Sale" sign that leads directly to the listing for that property. Potential buyers don't even have to get out of the car, just point their phone camera at the sign. Or put a QR code on your next event poster that adds the event to the smart-phones calendar automatically nd watch your attendance go up.
Okay, I'm Sold. How Do I Get One?
One of the neatest things about QR codes is that you can create them for free. Check here for a list of sites that you can use to create your own QR codes.View / Add Comments
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The (Revised) Mantra of Retail
- Find it!
Potential customers have to locate your business.
- Want it!
Then they have to like your business and products enough to want to them.
- Buy it!
Finally, they have to be able to purchase what you have to sell.
This process is the same for every retail business, no matter what industry or location, online or local. This is the mantra of retail.