You don’t need to be a genius to know that the market has changed radically in the last 12 months or so, wherever your particular market is. The rules have changed, the pickings are slimmer, and only the adapters will survive the ongoing evolution.
Your cost base probably hasn’t changed much. You slimmed that down during the recession, and have kept the fat to a minimum ever since. So what else can you do?
Make no mistake, the classic rules of marketing haven’t really changed. The challenge is to stay in touch with the external world, and revisit how your customers and potential customers perceive value these days.
Revisit Your Value Proposition
If reacting to the market shake-out has thrown you off the scent, then one thing you can do to give your business a better win rate is to go back to basics and make sure your value proposition is still perceptibly better than the rest of the pack.
It’s pointless investing more time and money in sales and marketing tactics unless you’ve got the offer right. And how will you know if you have, unless you know how it compares with others’?
When did you last check out your competitors’ behaviour? How they package their solutions these days, how they price, how they handle enquiries and how they position themselves against you?
Easy Ways to Learn What You Need to About Your Competitors
So what’s the best method of competitor research? How can you check the lay of the land without getting into analysis paralysis or spending months and a fortune gathering information., And how can you ensure the information gathered is usefully applied?
Well, short of doing it all yourself there are a few ideas you might try which won’t take forever, or disturb your team too much, and will give you what you need to make sure your business thrives.
- Ask your own people to capture a fuller picture about the market you’re now in. When your sales people hear a competitor is talking to a prospect, get your marketing team or sales administrator to contact that competitor. A web scan will yield valuable service information, a first impression, and sales office details. A phone call to their sales office can reveal what process they use to court new prospects, what they include or exclude from any packaged solutions, and whether they’re targeting the same primary market segments as you are. And much more!
- Brief your sales team and lead generators to explore who else is in the frame for the win, what the buying criteria are, and how supplier selection criteria may have changed. Have them spend more sales time face to face dedicated specifically to discussing these criteria. It shows caring (the first tick in the box) and will give you a deeper insight into what your buyer really values, personally, as well as commercially. Your proposals will be better received.
- When you lose to a competitor, go directly and ask why you were unsuccessful. It’s the only way you’ll find out if was your solution or if the sales person was part of the problem, and to avoid emotional interference getting in the way of the truth. Call the fish that got away and ask them open questions: What were the top three weaknesses in our approach which led to your decision? What else was significant? How about the human factor? How was their experience of the winning side’s sales process better?
- Remember your customers are your very best source of intelligence, as well as tomorrow’s best business. Many of them will have been courted by other suppliers, so it makes sense to spend time with them to learn how they experienced the courtship process. What did they like about it? How did their people stack up in terms of listening skills, caring, attention to detail and those other valuable sales attributes?
Keep your finger on the pulse of your marketplace and use these ideas to learn how competitors are transforming the game behind the scenes. But remember, in order to survive in your fast moving competitive marketplace, you need to make time to regularly revisit and adapt your own proposition.
Do you agree? Please comment below.