The concept of originality is not as old as we might think. Moreover, into the XNUMXth century, the fact that the best work was the most faithful copy of the original still persisted in some artistic disciplines. By this we do not mean that the sure way to be successful is to copy the competition, but we do mean to warn you that it is necessary to lose your obsession with others, either to copy them or to differentiate yourself from them.
As noted - in an analysis published in Expansion and Employment - W. Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne, “companies fall into the error of comparing themselves with the competition in order to design their strategic policy. The path to success is, instead, in the so-called innovation of quality" In other words: it may be necessary to be like the competition to detach yourself from the competition ... but a little better.
Well, to start offering a personalized treatment to our clients. Think that such a quality innovation can sometimes be something as simple as a Christmas greeting card, or a greeting in time, or remember your customer's name, his birthday, a revealing detail about your tastes or preferences. But above all, keep in mind that the first thing you should do is know perfectly who and how your competition is.
How to know who is my competition?
If you are one of those who is informed before taking any step, you will know - and you will have seen ad nauseam how all the institutions and organizations advise it - that you should start by conducting a mercado. But sometimes the first mistake is hidden precisely at this point. Expert Rafael Muñiz, author of the first book on marketing that was posted for free on the Internet, assures: “When I ask people who, for example, McDonald's competition is, I always receive the same answer: Burger King. But ... Why not Vips, Pans & Company, Rodilla, los restaurants traditional, or even, dare I say our own house when we go to eat? We must not forget that competition does not acquire the same presence, but rather that it has multiple forms and that, like a chess piece, it has to be moved differently ”.
Indeed, when the businessman He considers what his competition is, he goes directly to businesses in the same sector, starting with those that are in the same neighborhood, in his city, and from there to large international companies. But it is necessary to be open-minded and begin to take into account many other companies that, at first, we would not consider as part of that competition.
Therefore, it is best to go to the Internet first, where we can find a lot of information about it: who they are, what they offer, how they offer it, and even in many cases how much they charge for what they offer. Take your time. Open a sheet Excel or an Access database and go online. From a search engine to the yellow pages, it's time to start your search. Not everything is on the Net, far from it, but the Internet is an excellent thermometer on which to measure the temperature of your company. See if the companies that you consider to be your competition are very well positioned in search engines and have a lot of information on the Internet, or if it is not even possible to find your phone online. What does that tell you about the business ambitions of those companies? By the way, what about your company, how is the image of your company on the Net?
Minor competition. We are talking about companies that seem to have less volume of business than yours, less customers, less capital and less resources. And we say that they seem because it is precisely these companies, which at first glance seem less important, that he has to monitor the most. It is true that you have more means, but they may have opted to fill that lack with creativity and originality.
That is why you should not stop paying attention to those emerging companies that are born in front of yours with a smaller location, with fewer people ... but that may compensate their deficiencies with high doses of enthusiasm and ideas. Isn't that what we all seek for our business?
Small companies also have a much faster reaction capacity than the rest, since they do not have to move excessive parts or gears, like large companies with complex business architectures.
Those who are like you.This is war. Analyze these types of companies to discover what is considered better or worse. And take advantage of the fundamental piece: your customers. Ask them. How? This is where you have to display all your creativity. Just as what you think about yourself is very different from what other people think, don't be fooled, the same thing happens with companies. Do you know how your customers see you? Find out.
Let's take an example. Think of a book store, where you think it stands out from the corner bookstore because it has the books perfectly classified by authors. The competition however seems to have them out of order, or with another classification that escapes you. It turns out that the owner has decided to wait and thereby invite the customer to ask him what he is looking for. In this way a conversation is established, a contact that, thanks to the owner's conviction and knowledge of the business, is resolved into a sale and a possible client more satisfied than his, apparently more self-sufficient.
In an article written for Microsoft, Jeff Wuorio invites us to become customers of our competition. It is without a doubt the best of the ways to know the other. “Take for granted that you are going to compete with someone; never assume that you are the only one in your industry. On-site research is very useful. Observe the movement of customers, take note of the highs and lows and the flow in both the number of customers and the number of items sold. If it's a retailer, don't be shy and buy something. Finally, while it is easy to notice the weaknesses of the competition, pay close attention to what they do well. ” "Understand how they make money," recommends David Gumpert in his book How to Really Start Your Own Business, which teaches how to start a new business seriously. “Don't just focus on your blunders; find out the secret of its stability in the business ”.
This last concept is very important. Do not analyze the competition as a mother who is not satisfied by your daughter's boyfriend. Surely there are some things they do better than you. Discover them before criticizing what they apparently do worse.
The greater competition. And then there are those companies that, as big or successful as they are, hardly dare to consider as enemies. "With those we cannot compete", "those are bigger words". You are making the same mistake as before. Business maturity involves considering the large competition from a lucid and intelligent analysis. Stop dreaming that one day you would like to be like them and think about how they started, what they did to become what they are, how they maintain themselves and, above all, what you have that they don't have.
Now the tables have turned and you are that small company that has a greater capacity for reaction and that has to use creativity and ingenuity to be able to face and win its customers. Kim and Mauborgne conducted a study on the launch of more than a hundred companies, "to quantify the relative impact of the value of innovation on profits and growth, according to the improvements caused by competitiveness." What did they discover? Despite the fact that 86% of the business initiatives were imitations or copies, these companies only added 62% of the income and 39% of the total profits. The other 14%, those companies that innovated and opened new segments, accounted for 38% of revenues and 61% of profits.
Benchmarking. Finally, we cannot fail to mention another concept that is increasingly in vogue: benchmarking. It is a technique of management business aimed at discovering and defining the aspects that make one company more profitable than another, and then adapt the knowledge acquired to the characteristics of our own company. There are four fundamental techniques to do it:
q Internal benchmarking: The analysis of the own company's value chain will provide the first data on which aspects work best and worst in the company.
q Primary benchmarking: Information is collected directly from the competition. It is recommended to consult former employees of these companies.
q Cooperative benchmarking: It consists of carrying out an exchange of information with competing companies.
q Secondary benchmarking: Collection of information in the public domain about a sector of activity: competing companies, markets, customers, suppliers, etc.
How to be different?
The key in all this process does not lie in being different, but in providing a unique element, that the others do not have, that not only makes us different but also makes customers prefer us before the rest.
Obviously, the first thing is to know what the client is looking for. For this, it is convenient to keep the information we have about our clients updated, for which it is advisable to have a good program of managementAs Microsoft Business Solutions CRM. This tool allows you to organize your customers by tastes, shopping habits, financing possibilities or attitudes, and helps you manage your communications with them. You will not forget any birthday, we assure you.
The information obtained by the client will give him the key to start being different. You will discover, for example, that Mrs. A, when she goes to her business, likes you to give her product X in this or that way, and this will allow her to differentiate herself from other stores, where they do not know how she wants to receive your product. Another example. If you have a sporting goods store and you know that gentlemen A and B They always buy the products of a certain sport the first days of each month, they can send them offers that they consider always arrive at the right time.
The new expression coined in the marketing world refers precisely to these aspects: competitive intelligence, that is, the methods and processes, —Ethical and legal— analysis of an economic sector, and the capabilities and behavior of the competition, to obtain and maintain the competitive advantage of the company.
In any case, with the starting point of knowledge of the customer's uses, we can move forward, introducing needs creation into our strategy. It is there where we forcefully advance, and where we will need to draw on all the creativity and ingenuity that we have at hand.
It is about doing things carefully, with pleasure, with the necessary time so that you do not fall into the gray routine. An example. Perhaps you have an email account with which you communicate with your customers. Surely your customers receive many more emails of all kinds in turn: why should they pay attention to yours? What does yours have that others do not have?
Using the program Microsoft Outlook You can fully customize all your messages. You can add your company logo, an original and professional signature, and even a small advertising wedge. Keep in mind the example of business cards, and to what extent they have been refined to suit everyone's tastes and, above all, attract attention in a very competitive environment.
Today there is no doubt that email is a great business card that we should not neglect. Oh, and do not forget to put the subject of the message, because for many users it is decisive when reading or not its content. Get it right, be convinced that what you are sending is of interest to your client.
Technology also allows you to communicate your campaigns and offers via mobile messages, instantly, and stay in touch with your customers from anywhere. And much more.
Not long ago they presented a mechanism that allowed, through a barcode reading device, to know at all times the money that we have spent on our shopping cart. We may never have been calculating it on the go, but surely when they install this application we will all start to look at the prices more closely even if it is possible in search of the maximum possible savings. Or think of gyms that include the ability to watch TV while riding a bike. The key is to find that detail that allows us to be different and, incidentally, put the client in our pocket.
It's about being different from my competition, and that's where technology is at your service. It is up to you to decide how to apply it to your business. But don't forget: as the expert Javier Suárez points out in an analysis published in the magazine Ser Empresarial, "companies with technology increase their market share", while "the lack of technology often prevents growth".
In conclusion, and using the words of the expert Luis José Vinante: “Perhaps you offer something equal to what your competitors offer. What matters is how your audience perceives it. The perceived truth is definitely more powerful than the truth itself.So work to position yourself in the minds of your audience as the best. "
It is high time that your advertising and marketing materials are of the right quality and transmit all your professionalism. Where previously only specialized companies or highly qualified personnel could reach, today thanks to technology, we can create our advertising materials ourselves.
With Microsoft PowerPointIt is possible to make professional quality presentations in a very easy and simple way to express the image of the company, its objectives, its achievements. You can also create all kinds of materials such as triptychs, albums, and even promotional CDs that you can distribute among your clients. All this with a minimum investment that would be absurd to compare with what it would cost to leave it in the hands of companies whose cost surely cannot be faced.
Take advantage of all your creativity. And that of its employees. Microsoft has chosen as corporate message for the year 2004: "Your potential, our passion". Let your employees develop their ideas by offering them the necessary tools to achieve it. Surely with a minimum investment you can train (e-learning) and equip them with the technology with which to start new projects.
Don't end up becoming an entrepreneur within your own business. No matter how many initiatives you take to differentiate yourself, if your employees don't keep up, it's not going to be worth much. Share the knowledge of your employees and create discussion forums. The one known as Know How, that experience and knowledge about how each of the elements of the company works, should never be limited to people or departments, but should make them become shared values and available to everyone. . Make the most of all your resources to be different, to be one step ahead of the competition.