The 21st-century marketplace is highly competitive. Thanks to the Internet, customers have a greater breadth of options in terms of where they direct their business, and that makes it all the more important that you differentiate your products and services.
It may not be possible to convert every single prospect into a loyal customer, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. If you are looking for ways to turn legitimate consumer interest into bona fide sales, it’s important to consider why your target customers may end up choosing the competition over your company in the first place. In many cases, you’ll find that the companies that know how to differentiate themselves are most successful in this category.
With that in mind, let’s look at a few key reasons that customers could be choosing your competitors over you:
They don’t connect to your company’s personality.
This is something that far too many small business owners simply don’t give enough thought to. Your company—and particularly, its brand image—has its own personality. It comes across in the design and colour scheme of your advertisements, as well as in the tone of your marketing collateral. In fact, virtually all large corporations have an actual ‘Tone of Voice’ document that they use to guide their copywriters in selecting the best words and to ensure that they adhere to the brand personality when crafting a message. If your company isn’t doing this, you’re missing out on an important chance to influence how potential customers feel when they interact with your brand.
Furthermore, once you have established the tone and personality of your brand, you can also use this to guide your customer service agents and sales callers. Your brand personality will have a significant effect on the answering messages you use, as well as the approach that your customer service representatives take when addressing issues. Do your target customers appreciate a light-hearted approach to customer service, or are they more likely to value more serious and refined service? Establish these personality traits early and use them to sculpt a more effective brand personality.
The price point isn’t where it should be.
We should begin this section by pointing out that, if your customers only purchase your product because it is cheaper than that of the competition, then it’s probably not very well differentiated. All your competitors have to do is put their prices below yours, and the sales are going to start turning in their favour.
But as with the previous point, it’s all about knowing who your target customers are. It could be that a significant number of customers would be more inclined to buy from you if your product actually cost a bit more. They may even be looking for a higher-quality product or service, and the fact that yours costs so little is a red flag for them.
Ultimately, this is a matter of market research. It’s worth putting in the due diligence or even hiring a market analyst to help you work out who is most likely to purchase your product, and why. This will guide you making adjustments in the product and its presentation (if necessary), so that you can adjust the price point accordingly.
You fall behind during peak periods.
This is a tough one, because it’s often the times when the company is busiest that we end up providing the lowest levels of customer service. Of course, when the phones are ringing off the hook and orders continue pouring in, it’s natural to think that you’re doing something right. However, it’s precisely how you handle these peak periods that determines whether or not customers are going to return to the company for future purchases.
For small companies, it is difficult to scale up the workforce during peak periods. This is why it’s so important that you have a backup plan for times when the lines are extra busy. Every call that you miss or customer interaction that you don’t deliver on is going work against the company’s bottom line. It could drive your customers to a similar provider who handles busy periods more efficiently.
This is one of the great advantages of having an answering service that can pick up the slack for you when the business is outperforming itself. Rather than running your staff ragged and failing to deliver on your brand promise, operations can keep ticking along as if everything is normal. In fact, this heightened level of customer activity could become the ‘new normal’ if you handle it correctly.
You’re not offering customers the level of interaction they crave.
We live and operate in the age of automation—self-driving cars, one-click ordering and smart phones that can understand and answer verbal questions. It’s a new era of convenience, but it also leads to a deficit in human interaction.
In fact, today’s consumers are so deprived of human interaction, that the chance to call in and actually talk to a real person can make all the difference. By all means, take advantage of modern technology to make your service model as convenient as possible—but not to the extent that your customers are missing out on the chance interact with you when they would like to.
Chartering a call-answering service ensures that you have someone manning the phone lines at all hours of the day, regardless of whether your team is currently on call. Today’s customers are impatient, and the less time they spend on hold or waiting for you to call them back, the better. This is, perhaps, one of the most effective ways that you can differentiate yourself from your competitors.
Conclusion: Differentiation Matters
We’ve offered four key ways that you can set yourself apart from the competition—and there are certainly plenty more. At the end of the day, it’s how you differentiate your company and its products that matters most. If customers see the difference and value it, they’re going to turn to you rather than your competitors.