I was searching my library today for a book to inspire me to write this article. I picked up Guy Kawasaki’s classic, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy. Scott Adams, creator of “Dilbert” ™ begins the forward with these words; “Every day I get letters from people who ask how they can become a syndicated cartoonist like me. I usually tell them to forget cartooning and enter the dry cleaning profession. My logic is I don’t need more competition in cartooning, but I would like to see more competition in dry cleaning so my bills would decrease.”
This tongue-in-cheek reference to dry cleaning has some truth to it. How can we drive competitors crazy in order to reduce prices in the marketplace? Ray Kroc, founder and late chairman of McDonald’s said, “My way of fighting the competition is the positive approach. Stress your own strengths, emphasize quality, service, cleanliness and value and the competition will wear itself out trying to keep up.” Ray Kroc was right. His competitors did very little research to find new locations. They simply chose areas within a close distance to McDonald’s.
The point in beating your competitors is to establish your company as the leader in your area forcing competitors to follow you, instead of you following them. To do this you have to know who your competitors are, their strengths and weaknesses and how they position themselves in the marketplace. What are their policies concerning refunds? How is their customer service?
Next, you create your plan of attack. According to Kawasaki, a price war is simply too dangerous… the goal of a strategic plan should be to become better, not bigger. Add value to your customers’ experience and they will pay more for your services. Find a small niche and become the value leader in that segment. Understand the difference between sponsorship and salesmanship. Show your market that you are committed to doing good for the community by sponsoring an event or show, while making sure you do not commercialize it. When you do good community service with the right intentions, the media will pick up on it and your public relations efforts will soar into increased profits.
So now you know to establish yourself as the leader and a few ways to plan your marketing attack. When you’re a small player entering a market of giants, one way to rise above the fray is to educate the consumer and ask for their assistance in educating others.
One of my dry cleaning clients has been using a tool for several years to establish himself as the leader in his community. He uses Constant Contact® to send professionally looking emails to customers and prospects. The idea is to engage customers to pass on information about dry cleaning in general and your company in particular. Incentivize your customers to participate in helping you expand your customer base. You can also use your website (you do have a website, don’t you?) to get visitors to sign up for your newsletter, giving you permission to send them information, offers and discounts on services. As a user of Constant Contact myself, I’ve made special arrangements for you to get a free marketing toolkit so you can see the benefits for yourself.
Take Ray Kroc’s sage advice and build a company based on your own strengths, quality, service, cleanliness and value. When you do, you’ll drive your competitors crazy and reap the benefits of an increased customer base and higher profits.