Post by Patricia Hewitt, contributing Women On Business writer
With Halloween almost upon us, I thought it would be interesting to look at one of the trickiest aspects of our sales and marketing efforts – how to address your competition. Present too much information and you run the risk of looking either defensive or offensive. Presenting too little information may give the impression you are arrogant or ignorant. All are pitfalls waiting for you to topple in. What’s the right mix? Let’s examine some current market events and see how competitors are treating one another.
For example, let’s look at the financial services industry today – specifically banks vs. credit unions. Unless you’re living in a deep, dark hole you know that the banking industry is having a severe image problem, and they are beginning to scramble all jets with full page ads to assure customers they are solvent, responsible, and in control. Credit unions, on the other hand, are emerging relatively unscathed and are enjoying their fifteen minutes of fame as the financial champions of their communities.
Therefore, if you are a credit union and you know your competitor is on the ropes, what do you do? Is now the right time to step up your marketing campaign or will you be seen as unnecessarily exploiting the market situation? Let me say clearly, there has NEVER been a better time to spend money on getting the message out to your past, present, and future customers about the benefits of doing business with your company. This is business after all and if your competitor is down, you should shine the spotlight on what makes your company great and let the contrast take care of itself.
Just this morning, as a matter of fact, I received my periodic email from FedEx, who I use for a variety of services. Right on the top banner, it states: “Fedex – Make the Right Choice” and goes on to state, “If you’re concerned by published reports about DHL’s reduced capabilities, choose FedEx for all of your shipments, especially during the holidays.” And further, includes a link to learn more. This is no wallflower marketing strategy, yet it is handled in such a way as to create three powerful messages: First, Fedex is the right choice – second, it is public knowledge that… third, DHL is having problems and fourth, when you think about holiday shipping, think about this. The key take away is the fact that during a time of market upheaval or competitive advantage if your company is the one that is in a stronger position, you must take advantage of it.
However, the way you go about this matters, which is to focus on your strengths, not your competitor’s weaknesses. If you have been doing this all along, step up the message across all your communication channels. If you have not established a persistent brand presence in the market, now is the very best time to start. Your competitor’s customers are nervous and potential new customers are more skeptical, which means they will be looking at alternatives. You want to make sure your name is the first one they come across. In addition, you are reminding your existing customer base how smart they are to have been doing business with you in the first place. Therefore, now is a great time to show some customer appreciation and good will – treats anyone?