As someone who owns a franchise business or who is looking to own one, you know about the competition. You probably were drawn, at least initially, to purchasing a franchise because of its established reputation and customer base. In a marketplace fueled by competition, you felt that a well-known brand would help you stay ahead of the crowd.
And you’re right. But you cannot rest on your reputation alone; you have to keep moving and innovating to remain ahead. Did you know that your competitors can actually help your business grow? Instead of just trying to keep one step ahead of them, it’s time to take a good look at what you can learn from your competitors. Here are five ways your competitors can motivate you:
1. Competition gives you the opportunity to improve your customer service. No matter what your business, customer service should be your top priority. If there are serious contenders for your market share, it may be that they are supplying something to your customers that you are not.
Probably the best way to please your customers is through good, old-fashioned personal service. By hiring friendly employees and instilling in them that your customers are your top priority, you will convey to your customers that you value their business.
Use social media to communicate with your customers. Keep your Facebook and Twitter accounts updated and relevant with fresh content and photos. You may want to consider having a spot for customer feedback on your pages. Look after your loyal customers. Think of incentives – such as loyalty cards or discounts — to keep them coming back to you.
2. Competition keeps you up-to-date. As Bill Gates says in our opening quote, competition can keep you on your toes. Many new businesses have developed new ideas after looking in the rear view mirror and seeing a competitor ready to overtake them. What can you do to refresh your business?
Keep up with the latest developments in your industry. You probably took a training class or two when you bought your franchise, but it’s time to do so again. Contact your franchisor for what resources are available to you. Join professional and trade organizations in your field. Network with local businesspeople to keep up with customer trends in your community. Attend trade shows that feature new equipment and services for your business. Be ready to invest in new technology.
3. Competition forces you to be creative. When you got started in your new business endeavor, you were eager and enthusiastic. When the reality of running a business set in, however, you probably lost some of that positive energy. Let’s face it; it’s exhausting to run a business.
Competition forces you to think of new strategies and services to keep your business fresh. What’s a great idea you once had for streamlining your business? It’s time to take a good look at it. Do you need to step up your marketing, for instance?
4. You can learn from your competitors. Yes, when a competitor comes along with a new way of doing what we do or selling what we sell or with an innovative marketing plan, we can learn from their efforts. Instead of being afraid of what they are doing, be thankful. They are testing out the waters for you, and you can learn from their successes and failures.
In order to learn from your competition, though, you need to study them carefully. Find out everything you can about them and what makes them different from your company. Do they offer a better price? More flexible service? More product choices?
Check out their website and their social media pages. Or try searching their company name to read customer reviews and blog articles that discuss their service. Depending on your business, you or your associates can even do some reconnaissance — or mystery shopping — to see first-hand how your rival treats customers.
This information — much of which can be gathered without leaving your desk — will help you identify and strengthen what you do that is different – and better than your competitors.
Without bashing your rivals, try making a list of five ways your product or service is better than theirs. Now, turn the tables. Make a list of five ways they are better than you. If you have been as honest and as objective as possible, you have created some goals for yourself and your employees.
5. Your rivals keep you looking ahead. When was the last time you updated your business goals? Many business owners are happy to reach a goal but then fail to set a new one to replace it. Successful franchise owners don’t stay complacent. They are always looking to the “next thing.”
Revisit your plan and develop a clear idea for where you want to be in one year, in five years and in 10 years or more. Think of ways to get more involved with your community, for example. Community service is a win-win. You gain the satisfaction of helping others, and your neighborhood gains the involvement of a local business owner. In turn you help build customer loyalty.
Think about Coke and Pepsi, Ford and GM, Apple and Microsoft, McDonald’s and Burger King or Visa and MasterCard. Some of the business world’s top companies have big rivals. Like many aspects of business – and of life in general – competition can be viewed as a blessing or a curse. As a business owner, you can choose to look at the positives that a little healthy competition can bring and say bring it on!