Wednesday, December 21, 2016

How to Set Your Business Apart from Your Competition

As I spend time with friends, I often hear them say, “There is no unique place to go shop these days. They all have the same stuff.”  To which I reply, “why do you shop where you do?’  This leads to sometimes an interesting dinner conversation. But it always reminds me many business owners may not know how to set themselves apart from the competition with little or no cost.

Business Image

Creating an image of your business being different than the competition is part of establishing a competitive advantage for the business.  As a business owner, the competition for your business should be well researched so the idea of what you will do differently will be clearly thought out and easy to implement. Two ways to establish the business’s competitive advantage is pricing and the market.  With pricing, you can lower the price by finding a way to be more efficient thus lowering costs. With the market, you find a niche and exploit it to attract more customers.

Quality of Service

In creating a competitive advantage for the market, some strategies are to really push superior customer service, increase product quality or benefits to the customer, create an atmosphere where customers are welcomed or offer additional add-on services not currently offered by your competitors. The idea behind higher quality is to prove the product to be of such high quality that the niche customers will pay more for it.  I know I am glad to pay for something of quality that will last longer than one month. With customer service, the first impression needs to be positive as customers make quick decisions on if they will come back or not within minutes of entering the business. Also finding new uses of a product and showing it off is another way to benefit the customer. In the store, show how piece of fabric could be used as a fast and easy table runner for an upcoming house party. By focusing on a niche audience, you focus on the needs or desires of a narrow audience who find it hard to shop.  I used to work in a local Big and Tall men’s clothing store.  The store was definitely a niche since we started at extra-large and went up to eight extra-large.  The people who came to us typically had few retail choices and with our focus taking care of them, they kept coming back. We had chairs for them to sit on, we kept it cool even on winter days. They did not have to struggle to get a shirt or pant, the sales staff did it for them and so on. 

Pricing and Product Efficiency

On pricing, the business is typically working on a lower price point to attract new customers.  This method is fine if your way to doing things is more sustainable because the serious competitor will also work to match your price. Some ways to do this is to increase your production efficiencies.  Here you learn to be more energy efficient, buy product for lower prices or work out credit terms with the suppliers. As a business owner, you might upgrade your technology to better track inventory, record sales for bookkeeping purposes or to develop an online presence. Innovation is also a way to reduce price and it does not necessarily always mean technology.  You could be innovative on how you promote a sale through Facebook or other social media outlets, by better tracking your customer’s purchases to remind them when a similar product has come in or being more personal to customers by creating an anniversary/birthday program. As the business owner, staying on top of overhead is a daily task.  This is an area where a business owner can lose his shirt quickly. Staying aware of employee turnover, salaries, benefits, operational costs and physical structure costs like rent, can help see areas to trim. 

Creating a competitive advantage is important to the success of a business. The business can stand out and attract customers or be like its competitors and be open waiting on the doors to open. If interested in obtaining free assistance in establishing your business’s competitive advantage, feel free to contact Richard Proffer at the University of Missouri Cape Girardeau County Extension SBTDC at 573-243-3581 or email him at

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