One of the biggest fears of every entrepreneur is competition. After all, play your cards right and the customers will spend their money with you; play them wrong and you will lose your customers to your competition. Rather than fear the competition, what if you use it as motivation to learn about how to keep your clients coming to you? It can be done. You just need to be a little more proactive about making sure that it happens.
Sam Walton, of Walmart fame, once said “There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” It’s true, and everyone in business knows it. Therefore, we are all in competition to get that customer and the money they are spending.
You know how to bring in new customers, but retaining your old ones is also crucial to long-term company success and growth. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to prevent your competitors from taking your clients, including:
1. Be great. This one should be obvious, but it can’t be overstated. The best way to keep a client for life, and to fend off the competition, is to be the best option. Always be the best and you will have a major leg up.
2. Master the insider games. Many clients are lost or uncomfortable when they begin to deal with someone new during a transition. The guy that liked you left, and the new guy likes someone else, so you are out. To overcome this, try to build relationships with employees and your client beyond just the immediate contact. That may be just enough to keep you on board when a new guy tries to flex some muscle.
3. Let the new guy feel that it’s his choice. Building on the last tip, when you a new contact comes in, recognize that you are at your riskiest point. Arrange a meeting quickly, and let the new guy feel he is exercising control. Seek his direction and input. Avoid saying, “This is the way it was done before.” Instead, seeking the customer’s direction may turn the new guy into your newest friend or champion.
4. Use contracts. Try arranging long-term contracts with your clients. Perhaps you could discount your offering in exchange for them signing up with you for the long haul. Such contracts prevent the competition from getting in, and also make your company more valuable to the potential acquirer (a double bonus).
5. Don’t shout it out to the world. I can’t tell you how many of my competitors make the mistake of listing every company they service on their website. I recognize that they are trying to show off their accomplishments, but they are also unintentionally providing a call list for their competitors. Don’t publicize your entire client list; keep it quiet. Just highlight a few of them, for the testimonials you need.
Competition is part of any business out there. And if you think you have a company that has no competition, just give it time; if you have a decent product or service, your competitor will soon be coming around the corner. It is something we can’t get away from. But we don’t have to simply take it on the chin while our customers make a bee line in the other direction.
Our job is not to stop the competition. Rather, it is to hold on to our customers by using the tools and means we have available. When you keep the above tips in mind, you will have a much easier time retaining your customer’s business. Use competition to motivate you into finding new ways to keep your customers, rather than simply focusing on the fear of losing them.