Your competition is promoting their business every day, week, month, and year; consequently, they are adding more and more noise to your market segment – making it very difficult for customers to differentiate one product/service/offering from another. And naturally, the more competitors you have, the higher the noise level.
The result of all this noise is often product/service commoditization and subsequent price wars that only large (cash-rich) companies can win, so what can you do to get through this noise, and get in front of more customers?
Avoid “Me-Too” Syndrome At All Cost
If you are offering a “me-too” product or solution (mimicking everything your competition is offering), then your voice will be lost in the noise. In the customer’s mind, you are just one of many solutions.
Most customers don’t have the time or the will to research unknown products/services, so you need to offer something unique and valuable to get their attention.
If you don’t offer any unique benefits, you have to revisit your product or service. Understanding what is unique about your business and then communicating it to your customers is of the utmost importance because it is the only way to escape the “me-too” trap.
How To Get Through The Noise
Competing in a crowded market is difficult enough, so don’t make it more difficult with your actions. For example, when a customer finally shows interest in your product/service the tendency is to act desperate – try to do everything you can to close the sale. For example, saying “yes we can” to every customer demand, or implying so in your marketing (website, landing page, ad, email, flyer, etc.).
To better illustrate this point, let’s look at an example. Let’s assume we are in the accounting software business, with no shortage of competitors – Quickbooks, Freshbooks, Sage, Zoho Books, Wave, Xero, Sunrise, and Kashoo.
If customers find our accounting solution despite all the noise from the competition (above), then they must be looking for something specific. Don’t make the mistake of thinking they are looking for generic features or benefits, because if they did, they would have already picked one of the established solutions.
Your job and the job of your marketing team is to identify what specific benefit or need brought them to your door (or website). For example, you may notice that a particular type of customer is more likely to show interest in your product or service.
If we go back to our accounting software example, maybe your solution attracts customers that are looking for a simple solution with the least amount of features. Why would anyone be attracted to a solution with the fewest features? Someone that has zero accounting experience and little business experience —for example, a self-employed freelancer.
This is who you focus on, and all your subsequent marketing efforts should be focused on this niche (e.g., freelancers). In the example above, we can get through the noise by focusing on self-employed freelancers and ignoring every business with employees. – small, medium, large, and fortune 500.
The accounting needs of a freelancer are very different from a small business with employees, or a medium-sized business with multiple locations, or a large company operating across various states or countries.
While it may be tempting to try and close every deal in front of you, or place your product in the hands of every possible customer, you will never get through the noise with this approach.
If you are experiencing short-term cash flow issues, you may have to take on customers outside of your niche, but recognize these types of customers will slow down your growth.
Generalists Don’t Get Through The Noice (Only Experts Do)
You may be thinking that you are doing your customer a favor by trying to be the one-stop-shop for all their needs. However, the reality is generalists are never deemed as experts.
In our experience, getting through the noise as a generalist is almost impossible because generalists can’t outcompete experts (with specialized offerings). Therefore, you need to establish yourself as an expert in a niche – focus on one or two specific things that you can perfect and become a true expert in.
For example, most successful realtors specialize in a section of a city – never the entire city or several cities.
When To Pivot
If you are thinking, “There is nothing unique about my business” then it may be a time to pivot. Changing the direction of a product, service offering, or a market niche is difficult but often necessary to get through the noise.
Yet, many businesses don’t pivot until they are on their last leg – the worse time to make radical changes. In addition to internal changes that a pivot demands, it takes years (not months) of marketing for most customers to recognize a pivot (new direction). If you have to pivot, then do it while you still have the time and resources to do so.
Trying to get through the noise with “me-too” offerings, or by being all things to all people is impossible. Today’s business world is too competitive for this type of business to thrive.
Instead, focus on a narrow niche, and ensure all your messaging is laser-focused. Finally, if you need to pivot your business, know that it takes years (not months) for most customers to recognize your pivot (new direction).