Even if you already know what your USP is, I encourage you to read this post on unique selling propositions to get what makes your business special very clearly defined in your mind. You might even want to write yourself some notes. Before you finish read Create Your USP By Looking At What Your Competitors Aren’t Claiming.
Focusing on the broad path of competition instead of the narrow path of collaborating will not get you through the challenging economic times we are now facing. Every business should already be differentiating themselves
through a USP – a unique selling proposition.
I want to point out for my regular readers that I always put links to additional information in my posts, but I do not always tell you specifically why you should go read them. I hope you realize that means those two links (above) are really important to your success. If you want to survive or even prosper you simply must stop thinking in terms of competing.
I know that will be a hard idea to swallow for those who have been raised competing from birth or at least since they started school and sports. We have been conditioned to believe that competition is a worthy goal in every way from sports to grades.
Competition creates winners and losers. On a more basic level, it created a world where some have far more than they need and others are starving. Do we really want to perpetuate this model?
I ask especially those who consider themselves Christians to compare this to what Jesus taught. At some point – and now would be a good time – we have to decide who we really are and who (or $$ what $$) we choose to worship.
Many businesses have “competitors” who aren’t really competing. Maybe your business sells wholesale specialty woods and makes some cabinet parts but doesn’t make entire cabinets. A company that makes replacement cabinet doors is just as likely to be a customer as a competitor. While there IS definitely product overlap, the more competitors we can collaborate with the more business each of you will have.
When too many businesses compete for exactly the same audience they are fighting over a limited pie and creating winners and losers. Selling products that are commodities – which I will define as the same products widely available for roughly the same price – is a recipe for failure.
“2010 will see collaboration become the new competition. Markets around the world are crying out for collaboration as innovation and differentiation become scarce in a sea of commoditised products and processes.” ~ Barrett ~
If you only sell the same thing everyone else sells and others are willing to sell those products at less than their cost of sales, you will be in a price war that is going to put all of you out of business. The further the dollar slides the more desperate people will get. More of them will sell at below profitable levels and your sales and profits will keep declining.
If that is your current business model you need to make a change. Start adding different products that are NOT commodities. Consider offering products that your clients are likely to have to buy online so that they have an additional reason to buy from you (to save on shipping).
Since these are necessities, if someone is running low that will prompt them to go ahead and order – and if they could use both what you sell and that you’ll get the order. This time of year people are likely to need more baking supplies or even give organic gifts to friends and family. If you have an online gift store we could buy gifts, what we need to bake holiday cookies and organic staples too.
Yes, this means you will either have to stock that inventory too (if you ship products yourself) or find a partner who can ship them together. Or work out a way of splitting the cost of shipping from both locations that saves the buyer money and increases your sales.
The number one way to increase sales is to offer free shipping.
If you are interested in being healthy – even if you are a tiny ecommerce store – you could order extras when you order them for yourself and offer these items that people like me buy regularly online:
- Fluoride free toothpaste – I use Herbodent but any toothpaste that doesn’t have added fluoride would sell because many stores – even superstores – do not carry a single fluoride-free offering.
- Dr. Bronner’s Almond Oil Soap (yes, they have many others but this is the number one most popular)
- Organic shampoo – I use Aubrey’s Organics but there are many other quality brands. All “organic” products are NOT healthy so check them out at Environmental Working Group (ewg.org) healthy product database first.
- Rumford aluminum free baking powder
- Coconut oil
If you have a small local store, are an independent grocer, belong to an organic coop, or are involved in Community Supported Agriculture these same staples would be perfect to offer your groups. You could also carry Ezekiel sprouted bread and other hard-to-locate but highly popular products.
Encourage your local independent markets and stores to buy locally and sell these specific items. Every day someone like me (or maybe many someones) drives by your small grocery to drive 30-60 miles to Whole Foods – probably to buy only a handful of items they really want and can not buy locally.
If you stock what they want they won’t need to make that drive and they’ll buy their commoditized groceries from you too! Having sought out these products for decades now, I have some additional tips for you. Make a section just for these items instead of spreading them all over the store. That makes it easier for those who are interested to know what you have and see any new items of interest you decide to stock.
Be sure to make your new products obvious:
- Add them to your weekly advertising
- Put up or offer fliers on the checkstands – even those who aren’t interested are likely to immediately think of someone they know who would be interested
- Add these products in the description or special sections of your Local Search Directory Listings
- Add coupons wherever you have that capability such as Merchant Circle or Yelp listings
You can take this even further by offering locally raised products and grass-fed meat. As the dollar buys less and less there is one thing that will always be a valuable form of exchange – and it isn’t gold. It is FOOD! Small communities could actually do business in grocery store gift certificates instead of cash because everyone buys something at a grocery store and even if they didn’t they could trade them to someone who did!