When people talk about your business, what are they talking about? If you can quickly name the one thing that they’re saying (‘we have the best burgers in town;’ ‘our prices can’t ever be beat;’ ‘our employees are the most helpful in town’) then you have a competitive advantage: you have one thing that sets you apart from your competitors. And that’s great. You can stop reading now.
But chances are, what people are saying about your business isgenerally based on an immediate event: people say things like “the store had a sale on paper towels,” “I like that new cashier,” “I can get a manicure really quickly there.” Now that is all good word of mouth marketing, and important to have, but it isn’t going to help you build your small business’s brand.
Your brand is your name, and your small business logo, and a few key words and phrases that people think about your small business when they hear your brand name. Your competitive advantage should be built into your brand. One store’s competitive advantage could be providing the same benefits as a competitor but at a lower cost. Or, a store can deliver benefits that exceed those of a competitor. So better prices, easier parking or access, more knowledgeable staff, later operating hours, higher quality products and services, faster response…any of those things can be your competitive advantage.
And here’s the important thing…your opinion on what your competitive advantage is may not be the same as your customers’ opinions. And you need to find that out. Ask customers for a word or phrase that describes your small business. If you’re not hearing the same words or phrases, or if those words and phrases don’t match what you think your competitive advantage is, then you need to address that.
First, make sure your competitive advantage is clearly understood by all your staff. Make sure they deliver on that competitive advantage every single day. Then be sure that your customers recognize that as your competitive advantage.
Then comes the important part: ask your customers to tell others about your competitive advantage. Work your advantage into your promotions and your traditional advertising for your small business.
The best thing about having a strong competitive advantage is that it leads to brand loyalty. More and more these days, customers are becoming more loyal to stores than they are to individual products and services. Loyal customers spend more money, are less price sensitive, and are more forgiving if something goes wrong when they’re interacting with your store. And importantly, loyal customers are much more likely to give positive word of mouth for your small business.
Not every customer is going to be a loyal customer. And that’s OK. But it’s certainly a good goal to have, isn’t it?
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