“Awite dahlin’ what can I get ya, got some lovely apples today, four for a pound?”.
Okay so my market banter is not great, even when said with a cockney twang, but then I don’t ever expect to be trading on a market stall so I’m not too bothered. This miserable attempt at east end chat reminds me of an ‘Only Fools and Horses’ episode when Rodney meets a ‘posh bird’ and amidst his coveting and courting it becomes apparent that she has no place on a market stall. So how do you gauge your place in the market?
I think a wise place to start is to ascertain if there is call for your product or service, this will establish whether the market is saturated or whether it will be welcoming of your offering, and it will ultimately give you an indication of how much competition you have and how strong it is.
You may find that the answer to the above is not what you had hoped and in fact the number of “competitors” is far higher than you had expected – do not worry – they will not all be competitors, or at least direct competitors, if your offering is good enough, there will be a place for you.
You see, you need to know your business’s market position before you can create an effective brand for your business, product, or service. Determining and identifying market position depends on few key things.
Points of difference
Your unique attributes are what set you apart from your competitors and attract clients to your offering. Answer this; what is the best and most unique thing about your business? Now answer this; do any of your competitors do this and what makes the way you do it different?
This exercise is great because it really gets you thinking about what it is that you do that is truly unique and therefore what you are going to use to keep your place in the market and amongst your competitors. Don’t worry if this takes a few tries to find exactly what it is because just being different is not enough – you need to be great.
Product – is your product a luxury item, somewhere in the middle, or cheap, cheap, cheap. Obviously, with luxury items added extras such as preferential treatment or exceptional customer service are expected. Just like with a cheaper product, the general consensus tends to be ‘what you see is what you get.’ If you choose the former, can you meet customers’ expectations? If you choose the latter, will you incur costs with delivery, packaging and advertising that outweigh the expected and recommended selling price of your product?
Price – you need to make sure that your pricing matches your product and that you are not priced too high, or too low. Pricing yourself too high is a sure way of pricing yourself out of the market. Sure, you can reduce prices but customers will wonder why you were just not lower priced in the first place. And on the flip side, pricing yourself too low is likely to not only make you very little money but also give a ‘too good to be true – let’s steer clear’ vibe, plus, it’s much more difficult to increase prices rather than decrease them.
Service – What do you offer and what do your competitors offer? This section covers a lot including purchasing options, returns or refund options, out of stock items, incorrect products, customer services, delivery options, contact options…need I go on? What can you do to make a purchasing experience with you, memorable?
Perception – It doesn’t matter whether you have a high end or low end product or service, each ‘end’ is going to have its pros and cons but a lot of what you do as “support services” can change peoples perceptions of you and potentially increase your customer base and market share. For example, if you charge tuppence for a carwash – do it with a smile and do it well, people probably won’t expect this; if you charge twenty quid for a car wash, ask the customer if they like a particular scent sprayed in their car, leave paper mats covering the existing clean ones, collect and drop off the car etc. etc. People will then associate you with real value for money and find that their spend is justified.
You can see how all these points are linked and how being weak at any one could have a knock on effect on the others. My final tip for getting a handle on where you stand and how customers view you, is to read your feedback, reviews and ratings. Your customers won’t be shy in telling you exactly what they think, just like they won’t think twice about going elsewhere if your product or service doesn’t match all their criteria.
But at the end of the day, if your product or service is good enough then there should always be a place for you so focus on getting your message to the right places and you’re on the right track. I talk more about that next week.