As I wrote about last month, Graphic Art Monthly magazine has ceased publication. Some readers called to congratulate me: “You’ve knocked another one out of business!” I had to laugh at that mental picture. I am sure the Trader is not even on their radar. Plus, their magazine did not close due to financial problems or lack of advertisers. The parent company simply wanted to divest itself of a couple dozen titles (magazines and other products), and those serving the printing industry were among them. It was purely a business decision. Nor did the magazine close for any lack of editorial quality, since it had stellar editors, writers and contributors.
It’s probably hard to believe that I want my competitors to thrive. Here are a few reasons to consider:
1. First, your competitors are out there selling what you do. Talk about maximizing your sales force! They are selling the benefits of your product or service. When you make a call on customers who have heard from the competition, you don’t have to start at square one to educate them. You only have to dazzle them with why you’re a better choice.
2. Second, having lots of competitors keeps your product or service at the top of your prospect’s brain. We all know that repetition and multiple touch points help close the sale. Use competitors’ awareness-building campaigns to your advantage.
3. When your prospect is thinking about buying, no matter who he is thinking about buying from, it is a good thing for you. Getting prospects in the mood to spend money is hard. Let your competitors do some of that work for you!
4. Having someone to sell against keeps us all motivated. How boring would it be to be the only game in town? Competition creates excitement and keeps our edge.
5. Your competitors can be your allies. If you don’t believe me, look at the most successful print companies in our region. Their owners and key employees attend industry events, network with peers, travel to trade shows together, share ideas, and help each other out. Read David Archer’s article in this issue for more on this subject.
6. Having lots of competitors validates your existence. If there are lots of you, you must be a necessary thing, right? Without your competitors’ presence, you’d be spending a lot of time showing why your product or service is even viable. Let others help you do that.
7. Gives you a ranking. We all know it’s important NOT to say bad things about our competitors. However, we can certainly say with humility and generosity that our competitors are “very good” but we’re “better.” There can’t be a better or a best without someone to compare ourselves to!
Which brings me to my next point. Now that we’ve figured out that our competitors can be an advantage in our selling process, now we must figure out how to be the best, or among the best. And that’s a sales strategy as well. Being the best is hard, hard work. Being among the best sometimes is sufficient.
One way to do this is to change who your competitors are. It’s hard to be the best four-color printer in any market. But if you have a niche within four-color, you are going to reduce your number of competitors. You are also going to reduce the number of jobs you will be quoting, so you’ll have to make sure your closing percentage is higher.
I believe it is easier to have a niche that targets a specific kind of customer rather than a certain kind of product or process. For example, it might be easier to wrap your head around selling to investers of private cardiac clinics than to think about selling forms to hospital chains. You can really visualize yourself walking into a clinic and having a successful meeting, catering to all the various needs of an affluent investor and a busy surgeon. Those happy customers network with their peers, and their referrals are golden. Carrying a bunch of samples into a hospital and tracking down a purchasing agent (who never networks with anyone) — that’s a tough sell! Being the best in that losing situation won’t win the job; only being cheapest and most willing to turn control over to the customer will.
So I am hoping you will entertain a new outlook about your competitors and where you stand in the pack. I am always happy to brainstorm with you on making your business more successful.