Today, your competition could be almost anywhere in the world, from down the street to across the country or the globe.
The first inclination of many business owners is probably that they need to stand out to succeed, but standing out from the crowd is difficult, especially if you are an entrepreneur trying to break into an established market. But there is a better way.
Don’t try to stand out in a crowd. Create your own crowd.
Why standing out is standing still
Standing out in a crowd can be difficult in practice, but the concept is simple. When you draw attention to your company, potential customers will learn about you, and some percentage of those people will become paying customers.
You can stand out in a number of ways. Geico has funny ads. Rolex has a reputation for luxury. Amazon has low prices. These companies have found ways of being noticed, but being noticeable in your market isn’t enough.
For example, while many businesses try to compete on price, cutting prices is a tactic of diminishing returns. At some point, you can’t cut prices anymore without destroying your profit margin. Unless your prices are exceptionally good and can stay that way, you probably will struggle with maintaining brand loyalty.
While you may be remarkable for your low prices, you won’t necessarily build the kind of interest that will keep customers returning even when your prices are not the absolute best in the market.
In other words, the danger of standing out in a crowd is irrelevance.
Unless you can draw customers to your business, you aren’t really succeeding. That’s where creating your own crowd comes into play.
The advantage of creating a crowd
Why do so many people use Amazon? Your first thought might be that Amazon offers good prices. But is that all? Amazon has added other draws for customers: fast shipping, original programming, streaming music, and more. Being able to find all of those in one place draws people to Amazon. Amazon isn’t just being memorable. It’s providing people with compelling reasons to shop there rather than someplace else. It has created its own crowd.
How to build your crowd
If making yourself prominent in your market isn’t enough, what can you do to draw customers to you?
A simple way of thinking about the problem is to remember the old marketing adage of first, best, or only. Be the first to market with a new product or service. Be the best in the business. Or be the only one to offer something that customers want.
You want to provide something unique that customers want. That unique draw is what encourages customers to come to you and stay.
You could offer fantastic customer service. Several years ago, online retailers found that customers were much more likely to buy if return policies were generous. One study found that free returns increased online shopping by 58-357%. By building return shipping into the cost of goods sold, online retailers dramatically increased their appeal to customers, and today, free returns are not uncommon in the industry.
Building a loyal customer base
Drawing customers to you and keeping them engaged ultimately requires more than the typical marketing understanding of what customers want and need. The appeal of free returns is probably less about saving a few dollars on shipping and more about customers’ feelings of being penalized if they don’t like what they ordered.
Instead of focusing rigidly on metrics, focus instead on customers as people.
In your market segment, customers have certain expectations. How can you exceed those expectations? Customers also have needs. How can you meet needs that they may not have realized they have?
As you think through your marketing strategy, remember to relate to your customers as people.
Most people appreciate being more than a statistic. But when you stand out in a good way, offering people compelling reasons to choose you, you can build a following.