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How to excel in a competitive marketplace

5 minute read

Neal Lappe   by Neal Lappe October 21, 2014

Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest nor the most intelligent of the species that survives, but the ones most responsive to change”. How this applies to you is determined by many factors. But with the marketplace becoming ever more competitive and buyers’ attitudes influenced by so many new and changing factors, successful salespeople and businesses need to focus on three important factors to ensure they adapt and survive.

Before digging into these three factors, let’s establish a foundation for a successful enterprise. To succeed in the long run, a business must do three things consistently well…

  1. Create and acquire new customers by offering products/services of value to the marketplace
  2. Retain and grow existing customers by ensuring the “emotionomics” are in favor of the customer (more about “emotionomics” later)
  3. Evolve your product/service offerings so you remain relevant in the competitive marketplace

These three elements are the foundation of any successful business over time. But in an ever more intense competitive environment, these are “table stakes” as they say. To excel in a competitive environment, you must 1) decide who is best served by your products/services, 2) know your buyers’ value drivers, and 3) deliver exceptional customer experiences.

Who is best served by your products/services?

Your company does certain things well and other things not as well. The things you do well are considered your core competencies – those things you are particularly good at and perhaps are competitive advantages. If you aren’t certain what your core competencies are, you need to find out.

You can determine your core competencies in the following ways:

  1. Discuss internally to determine what you are good at
  2. Reach out to your customers and ask them something like, “of the products/services we provide to you, which ones are we best at and why?”
  3. Evaluate your internal data to see what trends emerge in terms of which products and services are growing consistently as this may give you a sense for what the marketplace values from you

Once you determine your core competencies, look at your current customers to see which ones value and are benefitting the most from what you do. Also think about what other kinds of businesses would be particularly aligned with your core competencies. Consolidate all this thinking and feedback to determine your target market – those that benefit the most from the main things you do.

I often advise clients that if you intend to be all things to all people in the marketplace, you are setting yourself up to be nothing to nobody. In an increasingly competitive environment, specialists who are known for being very good at a limited set of things, will survive and excel.

What does my target market value?

Once you determine your target market, you have to figure out what they value the most. These things are called “value drivers” because they drive value for your target market. These go way deeper than price and customer service. Examples of value drivers are

  • Immediate response to problems
  • Breadth of services
  • No questions asked return policy
  • Ongoing advice and consulting

Your target market will have specific value drivers and it is crucial you know what they are. How do you find out? You deploy similar methods as you did to determine your target market (above), but most importantly, you go to your existing and potential customers, and you ask them directly. There are three popular ways to solicit value driver information from your target market. They are

  1. Do one-on-one meetings - Meet with your existing customers and ask them, “in terms of the products/services we provide to you, what things are most important to our ongoing relationship?”
  2. Conduct focus groups - Select 10-20 people who represent your target market, get them in a group and ask them a series of questions about what they value from a supplier like you.
  3. Survey the marketplace – Develop a survey customized to your target market and work with a third-party survey company to obtain the appropriate information.

I can’t stress enough how critical it is to really understand what your marketplace values around the products/services you sell.

What are your customers’ “emotionomics”?

What are “emotionomics”? You may have heard about the “experience economy”. The experience economy is defined as customers paying for two things when they do business with you; 1) a great product/service, and 2) a very satisfying emotional experience while consuming the product/service.

In the experience economy “emotionics drive economics.” Your customers pay for the products/services you sell and in return, you give them “emotional currency”. If the emotional currency they get is more than the monetary currency they pay, the “emotionomics” factor is in your customer’s favor. This produces very satisfied customers who may promote you to others. If the “emotionomics” factor is in your favor, you run the risk of having an unsatisfied customer. Too many times we simply think our customers are buying our products/services when what they are really buying are the emotions that surround them.

Where do your customers’ emotionomics fall – in their favor or yours? The best way to figure this out is to take your customers’ value drivers (described above) and simply ask them how you are performing relative to them. This is done most frequently by way of customer surveys – in person or online. Regardless, if you want to excel in an increasingly competitive environment, you must execute a consistent program to determine how you are performing on the emotionomics scale.

In most cases, your marketplace is competitive and likely becoming more so. By understanding your target market – those who benefit the most from what you do, knowing what their value drivers are – the things they value most from what you do, and operating in a way to ensure your customers’ emotionomics are in their favor, you set yourself up to compete very effectively no matter how tough your competition is.

 


 

Neal Lappe leads the WebStrategies team of digital marketing experts. Under his direction, the company has flourished, growing more than 400% since its inception in 2004.

 

Topics: Sales, Internet Marketing, Leadership & Management, Digital Marketing

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