Beat The Competition
If you worry about your competitor, you’re worried about the wrong person. Worry about your customer and how you can find new ways to make them feel happy, appreciated, and amazed. Your competition will notice you doing this, and they’ll begin to worry about you. They’ll begin to react to you, which then positions you as the market leader.
Customers Benefit From Competition
All boats rise when the turbulent waters of competition enter the market. If you’re a guitarist, there’s a good chance that you own either a Fender Stratocaster or a Gibson Les Paul. These iconic brands have been in fierce competition since 1957—when Buddy Holly appeared on the Ed Sullivan show and introduced the world to the futuristic design of the Fender Stratocaster. Gibson flipped out! They were the darlings of the industry, but then Fender, with this new sleek-looking and great-sounding guitar, entered the market. But the market benefited from this competition.
Find Your Competitive Edge
Let’s say you hire an electrician to fix a problem around your house. You’ve got some faulty wiring in the basement. The electrician does a great job, and you’re satisfied, so you call him six months later with another problem. Hopefully it’s not the same problem, but you call them with another electrical problem in your house, and he’s booked up. He can’t get to you in time, so a friend refers you to someone that they use and really liked. So, this new electrician comes over, does a good job—just like the first electrician—but in addition to fixing the problem, this new electrician changes the batteries in all of your smoke detectors as a kind and unexpected gesture; and what a generous thing that is to do.
This electrician just gave himself a deliberate and systematized competitive edge by, not being a better electrician than the first one, but by making you feel a certain way. You might feel impressed or appreciative and touched by this little detail. The small bit of extra effort this new electrician took in changing the batteries in your smoke detectors is a great talk trigger: “Oh, the electrician was great! A little pricey, but he did the greatest thing for me: He replaced all of my batteries in my smoke detectors.” It really wasn’t a big deal for him to do it, in terms of his time, but the impact it had on you was significant, so you would probably be that much more inclined to refer this electrician to a friend and contact that electrician again in the future.
What if this electrician was the only electrician in town? Do you think he would have completed the systematized act of changing the batteries? Do you think he would have been focused on being so generous? Competition forced him to find an edge, and he found it.
Music Lessons vs Soccer
There’s more competition in your market than you realize. You’re not just competing against other music studios; you’re also competing against every after-school program in your market. Moms are asking themselves this time of year, “Music or dance this fall? What should I do? Soccer or music?” These are all questions that are swirling about your market right now. You need to factor these into the equation.
I play a Fender precision bass. No one can convince me that there’s a better bass in the world, even if there’s a better-playing or better-sounding bass. I rely on the Fender brand to make me feel a certain way and to validate my own musical beliefs. If you can make your customers feel a certain way about you and your business, your loyal customers will stay with you based on how you make them feel.
I existed for a good eight or nine years in my market without any real competition, or what I perceived as real competition. School of Rock came into my market after I was already in business for eight years, and I panicked, I freaked out, but that was my life before School of Rock.
I was complacent. I had a false sense of security. My customers weren’t really top-of-mind for me. I cared about them and I wanted them to have a good experience at and a good impression of my studio, but I wasn’t obsessed with how to really take the customer experience to the next level. At the time, growth wasn’t really a necessity for me; it was certainly desirable, but it wasn’t a necessity.
Dream Up Competition
If you don’t have competition, you really should do whatever you can to create it. Gary Vaynerchuk does this. He’s not obsessed over beating his competition, rather, he’s obsessed with his desire to one day buy the New York Jets. He is motivated by this challenge that he’s created for himself.
Tension and Focus
He is creating tension in his life by becoming hyper-focused on this goal of having enough money to buy the New York Jets, and he brings it up almost all the time on his podcast, so I have the feeling he’s probably telling himself constantly, “I need to make enough money to buy the Jets.” It keeps him focused, it forces him to identify strategic disadvantages in his business, it gives him purpose, and it forces him to remain—and if you listen to Gary Vaynerchuk, you know he is completely obsessed with the customer experience and building up loyal customers.
Driven By Goals
If you don’t have any real competition in your market set a goal for yourself. Maybe the goal is: Once I get 150 students, I’m going to take a week off to go to Mexico. Identify another music studio in another city that you really admire and try to compete with them from an inspirational standpoint. Look at a music studio in a different city, and just obsess over their website and ask yourself, “How can I get my website to communicate on this level to try and beat them?” Turn it into a game.
4 Secrets to Outsmarting Your Competition
Do these four things to outmaneuver your competition and dominate your market.
1. Obsess over your customers’ happiness more than your competition does. How can you be better at adding meaning and value to people’s lives? I’m not talking about customer service. Customer service is an expectation, and your systems should be the foundation for your customer service. I’m talking about your customers’ happiness. Obsess over your customers’ happiness more than you obsess over your competition, and you’ll dominate the market (or at least secure your place in the market).
2. Better understand your customers’ worldview. When I say worldview, I mean what are your customers’ value systems, and what future do they want for their children? What social signals do they respond to? These values and worldviews will vary from market to market. The better you understand your customers’ hopes, fears, dreams, and desires, the better you can communicate directly to them.
3. Gifts and tokens of appreciation. Make your customers feel celebrated and appreciated. When Mike Grande of Rock Out Loud sends a guitar strap to his student with that student’s name on it after they’ve worked together in his studio for a year, both the parent and the child feel celebrated and appreciated. When one of your customers mentions that she’s really into yoga and then a month later you send her an article about yoga, she will feel appreciated. When a student of yours is sick for more than a couple of days and you send him a care package with food and magazines, that token of appreciation will have a huge impact on your customers. Gifts and tokens of appreciation are an easy way to really connect with your customers and to gain a competitive edge.
4. Ask more and better “how-to” questions to Google. Both you and your competition are going to Google to ask: How do I do this? How do I do that? The music studio that asks the more and better questions will be the studio that is better equipped and better educated to support their customers. After this podcast, Google “how to gain a competitive edge in my market,” and you will be on your way to gaining that competitive edge.
Don’t Sweat the Competition
Stop worrying about your competition. You should worry about your customer and how you can find new ways to make them feel happy, appreciated, and amazed. Your competition will notice how customer centeric you are and they’ll begin to worry about you. They’ll begin to react to you, which then positions you as the market leader. Your competition will look at you and say, “How do they keep coming up with all these things and all these great ideas?” Or maybe they’ll think, “Why didn’t we think of that? Why didn’t we think of doing what Greg Hipskin does with his studio where he takes his kids to meet rock stars and takes them to their soundcheck? Why didn’t I think of that?” What a great way to gain a competitive edge.
Be a Website Spy
Another way to outmaneuver or outsmart your competition is to spend as much time on their website as you do on your own. Look for weaknesses in their messaging. Look for messages that lack clarity and emotion. Maybe your competitor wrote on their site : Your child will learn how to play chords, scales and music theory. That lacks emotion and uses industry lingo that a mom doesn’t necessarily understand. So, you could counter with: We want your child to step out of their first lesson and say, “I had so much fun. Playing the guitar is easy” This paints a picture and it tells a story of accomplishment and confidence.
Maybe people in your market aren’t going back and forth between your website and your competitors,’ but you should. It’s easier to identify your competitors’ weaknesses than your own because you’re not emotionally invested in the sales copy on their websites; look at their website and say, “How can I communicate better than this?” And be aware of your competitors’ claims, and then ask yourself, “Is there a way that I can counter this claim?” Don’t meet them head-to-head with the same claim or the same position in your market. Find a unique position so you can co-exist in the market.
Find Your Position
So, let’s say there’s a School of Rock in your market. School of Rock implies through their marketing that they’ll make your child feel like a rock star and give your child the rock star experience. That’s an attractive and strong statement. If you come out into the market trying to broadcast that same statement and compete with them on that experience, you are now positioning yourself as a follower, not a leader. So, when School of Rock says “We’ll make your child feel like a rock star and give them the rock star experience,” you can counter it with, “We’ll make your child feel more confident.” Now the market has choices.
Parents are now going to ask, “Well, do I want my kid to feel like a rock star and have that experience, or do I simply want my child to feel more confident?” Sure, some people are going to pick School of Rock over you, but you are at least positioning yourself differently in the market. You’re clearly making a different promise to your market than School of Rock—not that one is better—but they’re simply different. It’s like the Les Paul and the Stratocaster. Which Guitar is better? It’s a matter of opinion, and most guitar players either own both or dream of owning both.
Let Go of Ego
Competition is a good thing for the market. It’s a good thing for you because it legitimizes music education. I freaked out when School of Rock opened up; I thought they were going to crush me, but what they wound up doing was they legitimized the whole idea of a music school that focuses on rock bands. My business exploded after School of Rock showed up (and of course, they did really well too). We co-existed in the market, just like the Les Paul and the Fender Strat.
Ego gets in the way and people want to be number one. They want to dominate and dominate the market. And hey, that’s a nice thing, if you can do that, but there’s nothing wrong with being number two—as long as you understand your position, protect it, and thrive in that position.