As I spend more time talking with independent retailers (and small businesses), I’m finding so many that spend so much time — too much — worrying about their competition.
I’ve seen it in companies with one store, and in companies with 40 stores.
When I worked in the beauty business, we always were seeing our competitors running deals, offering coupons, and doing everything they could to, well, decimate their business. And for awhile, we followed suit (against the recommendation of myself and others). We had an unparalleled product mix, and a great customer experience with well-informed staff. In short, we ruled the category. So by offering all the deals and doing everything that our competitors did, we stooped to their level. And what did it get us?
It caused our customers to wait for the deal, then shop.
- It harmed our gross margins, which ultimately impacted our profitability.
- It significantly increased our marketing expenses, which also impacted our profitability.
- It lowered our customers’ perception of our brand by putting us in the same category as a beauty supply store when we were so much more.
By worrying about your competition and emulating what they do, you become reactive instead of proactive. And reactive businesses are followers. Proactive businesses, on the other hand, are leaders.
So how do you stay proactive and ahead of your competitors?
- You remain your own brand and you don’t waver, or change who you fundamentally are just because your competitors do.
- You do everything you do to make your brand better, and you don’t employ the flavor of the month strategy in running your business (that’s reactionary).
- You have an eye on what your competition is doing, but you don’t let it drive your decisions (remember, you’re already out in front of them).
From a brand perspective, you put your head down, you put your nose to the ground, and you plug along, doing what you do best. Sure, you look up every once in awhile. You can’t be blind to what your competition is doing. But by emulating your competitors, you’re only going to negatively impact your business.
Building a successful brand isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. And we all know who won that race. (psst. — It’s the tortoise.)
How are you building a successful business?
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