Update Your Competitive Analysis

We all know that part of a good business survival plan is a well-researched competitive analysis. Before you start a business, investigating your competition, their products, prices, marketing and public relations plans, customer service, and more is paramount.

For many businesses, once the original competitive analysis is completed, the demands of creating and running a business take over and the time to stop to take notice of what your competitors (who may also be friends and colleagues) are doing and how the competition has grown changed can be overlooked. In the wine industry, the number of tasting rooms has grown exponentially throughout the US and Canada over the last few years and shows no signs of slowing down. This uptick in the number of competitors is going to affect your business.

Dig out your original marketing plan and look at the competitive analysis. If you don’t have a competitive analysis, now is a good time to start. Discover what your competitors are doing in the areas of:

  • Products (What are they making, how well and how much?)
  • Pricing (How much do the products cost?)
  • Sales (How are sales made: directly, through distributors, via the internet, etc.?)
  • Customer Service (How well do they treat their customers?)
  • Promotion/Advertising (How are they promoting their products? Explore all avenues.)
  • Strengths & Weaknesses (What are they doing well and what could they improve on?)

Start with the competitive businesses that are most like your own. Then branch out to similar businesses with the same target audience that may be making/selling different products in the same industry) or be in different price categories. Once you have the information delve into how successful they are, the number of customers you estimate they have and how your business compares. Try to put subjectivity to one side, for example thinking your product is better when it may just be somewhat different. Whether your product is better or not is for customers to decide. Remember that customer service makes a big difference in how customers perceive products.

Finally, take the time to visit your competitors. Much can be learned from going in as a customer. Or if you are well known to your competition send someone else in to do the assessment.

Knowing how well your competitors are doing is crucial to a successful business.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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How Effective Is Your Interaction With Customers?

Important points that many businesses fail to consider when they are sending out information to customers, whether that information is through social media, emails, text or even through the mail:

  • Will customers be interested in this?
  • How much spare time do recipients have to focus on my interactions with them?
  • Are they being overrun with messaging from other companies that is very similar to mine?

Here are some ideas of how to get your customers more engaged with your emails, social media posts, etc.

  1. Know your customers: If you are keeping up-to-date records of your customers likes and dislikes (including how they want to be contacted), tailor these interactions to their needs, wants and desires.
  1. Segmentation: You will need to segment your customer records by the interests of your customers, what they buy and what resonates with them. You will also have to put some time into getting this information from your customers. Though the time you spend will pay dividends. This is especially true of your best customers. Start with the top ten customers. Once you have got all the information for these customers move on to the next ten until you have at least 100 (depending on the size of the customer list).
  1. Perseverance: It may take time, though once your customers realize that you only send them information that will make a difference to them and their lives, they are more likely to read it and respond.
  1. Response: Quickly respond to all comments and questions that come to you through social media posts, emails or by phone. Whether the responses are positive or negative it’s important that you show your customers that they are important to you. In the case of social media respond to all positive and negative comments online, though you may wish to take additional response to negative comments offline if the problem is not one that can be ironed out easily. Once the problem is successfully handled, ask the customer to go back on social media to say that everything was taken care of.
  1. Know Your Competition: Select similar businesses to yours and sign up for their mailing/social media or email list. You need to know what they are sending to their customers so you can differentiate your business from theirs.

By making your customers as important to you and to your business as you are to them, your business will grow and become more successful.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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What Makes Your Business Different?

To be successful, your customers and prospective customers have to know (and be constantly reminded of) how your business is different from other businesses in your area that are selling similar products.

Without differentiation, consumers will have a hard time remembering your business. I work with a number of wineries and regularly talk to wine consumers about their experiences when they go wine tasting. After consumers have been to six or seven wineries during a day of tasting, they have a hard time recalling all the wineries they went to or what they tasted where. They will, however, remember a winery dog, a beautiful garden, a particularly friendly and helpful staff member or a wine varietal they particularly liked, especially if the wine was made from an unusual grape. These are some of the differences that make a business stand out from the crowd.

I am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from the book Neuromarketing:

“In a sales context, the absence of contrast – especially when a prospect has difficulty understanding the differences between your product and others – will bring the prospect’s decision-making ability to a halt.”

There are many types of differentiation: products, service, price (either high or low), quality, location, are just a few. The important thing is to choose a concept, word or phrase you want consumers to think of when they think of your business. Though if you want the customer to buy it has to be something that differentiates your business from everyone else’s in the mind of these consumers.

If you are interested in delving further into how to differentiate your business in the minds of consumers, I suggest you read, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” by Al Ries and Jack Trout, which made a great impression on me when I first read it, many years ago. I have read it many times since then and it’s as relevant now (or perhaps even more so) that it was then.

If you have not differentiated your business, now is a good time to begin. Start by asking your managers and staff, what they think makes your business stand out from the crowd and then ask some of your regular customers what it is that keeps them coming back. That will give you a good start.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Social Media – External and Internal

Are your employees following the company on social media? If not they should be. Social media is a great place for employees to get reminders of the information or offers that you are broadcasting to customers.

In the days before the internet took us to worlds we had never anticipated, it was common in business that employees (especially part time or occasional employees) were not up-to-date on what was going on as far as specials or events were concerned. It was not unusual in the wine business when wineries were doing AVA-wide events and selling tickets for these events that customers would visit a winery asking for tickets and the person at the tasting bar would tell them that they didn’t have tickets for the event. This is just one example of how information is not been disseminated to everyone who needs to have it.

As part of the dissemination of information, encourage your employees to follow the business Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, Yelp, etc. In fact, you may wish to make following the business social media mandatory, just as it’s mandatory that they read memos and other information relating to their jobs.

If you are an employee, it is going to make your job easier if you know what is going on in the business. In most consumer-oriented companies, customer specials, events, and other customer oriented information can be hard to keep up with, so being aware of what customers are seeing on social media will help you remind customers of things they may have forgotten. Not to mention helping you with sales. You can keep up on what customers are thinking, and whether they are happy or not. Also, keep track of any personal mentions you may get. It doesn’t hurt to know how many customers have appreciated your help, especially if you are hoping for promotion or a raise in pay.

Be aware of everything that is happening in your business on social media. It will keep you at the top of your game.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Assessing Customer Experiences

Last week this blog delved into statistics regarding customers who may have had a less than stellar experience when they visited your business. We discovered that the percentage of customers that you think were satisfied with their visit was not necessarily in line with the number of customers who actually were satisfied.

Also, we learned that only a small percentage of dissatisfied customers take the time to complain. The rest just don’t return.

After publication of this blog, I received an email from one reader regarding the best ways to contact customers. He was concerned that calling people may be intrusive and they may not be comfortable telling you what they really think. Good point and one that is raised regularly during seminars and conference sessions.

The first thing to do is to ask customers how they would like to be contacted. Would they be open to a phone call or prefer to be contacted via email, text or mail. How customers prefer to be contacted many times has to do with their generation. Text is the favorite for Millennials and younger people, while some Gen X or Boomers may prefer email or even mail. Step one is always to identify the wishes of individual customers.

If you don’t have this information on your individual customer records, procuring the information gives you a reason to call your regular customers and double check. Most of your regular customers are not going to mind an occasional phone call. In fact, in many cases it is going to strengthen your relationship with these customers as you are initiating a more personal interaction. While you are on the phone and the opportunity presents itself, this is a great time to tell the customer of any exciting opportunities to purchase. Remember that these people are regular customers because they like you and your products.

Once you have the information on how they want to be contacted, make sure you have the address or phone number in order to follow up. Also get their agreement (in writing) with a follow up email that you as them to sign and return.

Your consideration for how your customers wish to be contacted will just deepen the relationship you have with them and they will appreciate the courtesy.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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You May Not Get Many Complaints but That Doesn’t Mean Your Customers Are Happy

I have been researching customer service lately and have found some interesting statistics from a number of different sources. The main thing that came through in virtually all the sites I researched was: Only a small, small percentage of customers who are dissatisfied actually register a complaint with the company. The rest of them don’t come back.

Here are some “Customer Service Facts, Quotes & Statistics” from Help Scout:

 

On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.

Take a look at the average first purchase of your customers and multiply that by 10.

 

Probability of selling to a new prospect is 5-20% while the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60 -70%.

Engaging and connecting with first time visitors is much more likely to bring them back to buy from you again.

 

For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent.

Create an easy process for customers to give you feedback. Pay attention to the feedback and use the information for staff training.

 

Any business with customers is in the “people” business.

We tend to define our businesses by the products or services we sell. Though the most important thing to remember is that we are in the business of providing good experiences for customers, no matter what the product.

 

“Although your customers won’t love you if you give bad service, your competitors will.” – Kate Zabriskie

I doubt that your main reason for being in business is to make life easier for your competitors, though if you are not focusing on customer service that’s exactly what’s happening.

 

80% of companies say they deliver “superior” customer service. 8% of people think these same companies deliver “superior” customer service.

In other words: Don’t believe everything your think. Follow up your opinions with real data but ask your customers in person, through surveys or over the phone, how they feel about your company.

 

There will be more customer service insights in next week’s blog.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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Life: A Series of Small Victories

As many of you know I am on the injured list at present. Unfortunately, I have two things going on at the same time. A broken femur is keeping me wheelchair bound, probably through September and I am having problems with my one eye that works, so my eyesight is at best, variable.

However, for every misfortune, there is always another side. The good fortune of discovering the true value of friends and family and the kindness of perfect strangers are two of the upsides.

Another upside I have discovered is that of celebrating the small victories in life. These first weeks of not being able to walk has been a number of small victories, at first being able to sit up in bed by myself, then getting from bed to the walker (for me the walker is more of a hopper as I can’t put any weight on my left leg) being able to dress myself and moving from walker to the wheelchair by myself.

In small and large companies, learning to celebrate the small victories in life is a wonderful way to create a stronger company culture, good feelings among employees and management. When employees are happy the customers feel it when they come into the business. They are likely to stay longer, take more interest in your company and products, experience a greater connection with the employees and buy more.

Celebrating small victories doesn’t have to be expensive:

  • When an employee or a department has a good day, week or month, make sure they know that they did well.
  • If an individual employee is particularly effective in handling a customer service problem, congratulate him/her on how well s/he did.
  • If someone is diligent in keeping public areas clean and tidy, thank them for it (even if it is their job).
  • Make the words, “thank you” or “great job” words that employees and managers regularly hear.
  • If you are an employee thank your manager when they do something good or congratulate another employee on a job well done.

Create an atmosphere of celebration around small victories. If there is a downside to this I have not yet thought of it.

Give it a try and see how it works for you.

A tip of the glass from me to you!

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