Why is there so much talk about the competition?
How to build a competitive strategy, tips for analyzing your competition, how to attain a cost leadership position against your competitors and how to out-sell your competitors pervade the thinking of most business people.
The underlying strategic intent is to build barriers to competitive entry; erect a massive wall to prevent the hordes from entering your markets and taking your customers.
You have little real control over what they do. If they want to launch a new product, reduce their prices, introduce a new disruptive technology or enter one of your markets to compete with you, they will. And (unless you intend to fight their actions on legal, regulatory or ant-competitive grounds), you will have no choice but to deal with the challenges their actions pose.
All you can do is try to anticipate their actions and go on the offensive, or respond to them defensively when they happen.
Rather than devote copious amounts of resources, time and energy to issues we have little control over, we should focus on what we have SOME degree of control over.
Rather than build barriers to competitive entry, we should be concentrating on building barriers to customer exit.
This you DO have a degree of control over; you stand a better chance of creating the outcome you want than basing your actions on what your competition does.
Spend your time making it extremely difficult for your customers to leave given a choice they might be offered by a competitor.
Barrier to exit profile
What do barriers to customer exit look like?
The emphasis is on building relationships and creating personalized experiences for customers as opposed to pushing products and services at them with a one size fits all mentality.
What customers personally need is given priority over what the common needs of the broader mass market appear to be.
In addition, attention shifts to concentrate more on how people feel when they are engaged with the organization and not solely on the right product or service fit.
Every manager and executive ‘makes the call’—yes, a phone call!—to customers on a frequent basis to ensure they are being served with relevant and compelling solutions.
It’s an opportunity for the organization to get critiqued on their performance as well as receive suggestions for improvement.
The bottom line is the customer feels valued and respected and are less likely to be enamoured and attracted by a competitor’s value proposition.
Special offers and price promotions are proactively offered to loyal customers; they are not used solely as a tool to attract new customers as is more often the case in most organizations.
The marketing and sales roles are to be proactive with the customer and present these opportunities before that are made available to the broader base.
People are more loyal when they feel that they are special; getting the deal first will go a long way to shutting the ‘bad guys’ out.
Customer retention outranks new customer acquisition in terms of priority; the key success factor on the organization’s balanced scorecard is the rate of customer attrition.
It’s always incredibly satisfying to attract a new customer especially when it’s the result of a win from a competitor.
Teams love winning a competitive battle; it’s what makes their juices flow.
The issue is, however, that making your organization irresistible so that customers don’t want to leave can’t be done effectively when there is a strong push to get new customers.
The priority must be on retaining the existing customer base and trust that they will refer you and spread your word to others who will come over to your side — your loyal customers will drive new customers to you.
The policy system of the organization is built to serve customers not control them. Dumb rules are eliminated in favour of those that facilitate customer engagement.
No one is likely to stay loyal to an organization that is difficult to business with; internal rules that put customers through hoops and policies that make no sense other than to control what customers do as opposed to enable them to get their needs and wants satisfied.
Every employee in an organization has a critical role to be an advocate for the customer and find and fix the internal roadblocks—rules and policies—that annoy customers and make the engagement experience negative for the customer.
And given the inertia that presides in most organizations, to make meaningful change that favours the customer, everyone must take on an advocate role to fight their internal bureaucracy and stand up for the rights of the customer.
A HUGE barrier—ironically—to customers leaving is what you do when a mistake has been made and the customer has been screwed over.
Most organizations spend all their time on how to prevent mistakes from occurring (and that’s ok) but few if any have a strategy in place to deal with the situation when prevention goes awry and a colossal blunder happens (and it will).
The fact of the matter is that service blunders that are handled right actually enhance customer loyalty because of the ’impress’ factor.
If an organization responds to a service OOPS! in a way that surprises the customer and dazzles them, they WILL be impressed and they WILL think of the organization in a more positive way (compared to the blunder never happening in the first place).
Impress = Fix the blunder fast + surprise the customer with what they DON’T expect.
Build a barrier to customers leaving by admitting you’ll commit a blunder from time to time and have a plan to recover in an astonishing way when you do.
Going to war with the competition and focusing relentlessly on them may get the adrenalin flowing, but it does so at the expense of your loyalists who have been committed to you in the past and who need you to continue to give them good reasons to stay.