Don’t Compete. Differentiate.

I was dining with a friend enjoying a delicious plate of fish and chips at a popular restaurant in Toronto and he asked me how one diner could succeed over another? Great question when so many small businesses – particularly restaurants – fail every year.

The most obvious tactic to compete is to evaluate what the leaders are doing. What ingredients are they using? But imitation offers no immediate advantage. To move ahead, you must stand apart. A bit of spice might be just what everyone is looking for. Consider the following to differentiate yourself:

1. Employee behaviour.
Warm greetings, manners, showing genuine interest…these have all become rarities. Do you establish rapport well before moving to business? How welcoming is your receptionist? How can you make the whole experience more memorable?

2. Ambience.
Is it an attractive place to spend time? Noisy? Well lit? Clean? Fun? Southwest Airlines once said that if their table trays aren’t clean, people wonder if the engines are well maintained. What about you? Are you nice to look at, or are you still putting yourself together as you meet clients?

3. Pacing.
Italy boasts the longest average meal time. It’s a social affair and should not be rushed. Speed is often good, but pace your service to the customer’s expectation. Follow-up in a timely way without nagging.

4. Experiment
What might customers want, but are unaware of? Singing waiters, dining in the dark, meals delivered by roller coasters and robots. They’ve all worked! What can you add?

5. Infuse.
When Lexus was preparing to launch its brand, they looked outside their industry and studied Apple’s service delivery model. They were first to offer VIP service with a barista and a comfortable place to work at the dealership. Genius!

6. Follow the trends.
Multigrain batter. Sustainable fish farming. Pulses (kale is so yesterday). Diversity and privacy. How can you apply or highlight your alignment with emerging trends?

7. Do the opposite of your competition.
Or, forget the trends and do your own unique thing. Check out Regrub with their horribly unhealthy milkshakes. How can you resist? (I’ve been twice and recommend “Cookie Monster”). Making it Instagram/Facebook-worthy is smart.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. I help clients look deeply into many variables and consider a variety of scenarios to derive the right direction for success.

Changing Your Mind

Fundamentally, this is about knowing your customer, sometimes better than they know themselves. You can’t shape new products, ideas and trends without going deep and wide. It’s easy for leaders and boards to sit around a table and discuss what they think they know about the customer. Check out my linkedin feed and you’ll see that I combat this by reading a ton of news from many sources every day.

  • When was the last time you talked to a customer, or followed up after the sale?
  • What have you read lately that is in a completely different field? How can you apply it?
  • What are you selling that uniquely reflects who you are, your experience, and your passion?

The easiest strategy is to copy the competition. The best strategy is to look beyond them. Disrupt yourself before someone else does it for you.

Thoughtfully Yours,

Jeff

Jeff works with growing businesses and aspiring non-profits to help them establish and execute leading strategies. He also works with executives who want to accelerate their personal growth. Learn more about Jeff here.

 

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