A bold statement, I know. I have discovered the competition a long time ago, and every where I look I see it getting closer. The competition might not be what you think it is. But it’s there, believe me, it’s there. And there’s only one thing you can do about it.
A local shop
I live in a fairly small town (apx. 28,000 people). There are some shops, some good and some not so good. I can buy whatever they’re selling online. It’s cheaper and easier. Why should I visit the shops to buy their products? The only reason they’ll survive is if they learn what marketing is all about.
The shops are competing against the comforts of our homes. We can sit at home, along with our families and friends (or alone, if you prefer) and order whatever. We can do everything with just a few clicks on a mouse.
The shops need to be remarkable in order to turn us into a regular customer. They need to turn shopping into a personal experience. They need to make us feel that we are visiting a friend, or they need to turn it into something so comfortable, or so much fun, or entertaining, that we just need to turn up again and again. It’s not about the products, not anymore.
There’s one cinema in the town. The cinema was built in the 1920’s. The building is old and beautiful. They’ve renovated it several times, and if you look inside you’ll see that they’re showing movies in 3D and THX, so it’s not that bad. Well, that’s of course if you don’t sit down. The seats really suck if you’re 6 feet tall (and most of us are). That’s why I haven’t been to this cinema in years.
Tomorrow they’re re-opening with brand new seats. I’m looking forward to it. But it’s still not enough (I am saying this before I’ve even been there). The reason I am saying this is because of the comforts of our homes.
We have flat screen TVs. We have blue ray DVD players. We have surround sound. We can download the latest movies for free (it might not be legal, but it’s easy to do it). We have all the candy we can eat (and a lot cheaper than at the cinema). We have awesome equipment at home, and we don’t have to listen to all the other people talking and eating their candy. We can do exactly what we want and we can watch the movie when we want to, and we can even pause it and go to the bathroom (or get another snack). Why would we want to leave our comfort zone and enter the cinema?
We do it because we want to be with our friends. We do it because we want to watch the latest movies without doing something illegal. And some of us don’t have the right equipment at home. But the cinema is missing one thing. They need to be remarkable. They need to provide us with an experience we can’t possibly get anywhere else. They need to target their audience a lot better. And provide the comfort we require. Why can’t we eat food inside the cinema, or drink beer or wine? Why don’t they provide a baby sitter? Or vibrating seats? We need to experience something we can’t possibly experience at home in order for the cinema to be successful.
I’m not out eating at restaurants a lot. That’s mostly because I’m a vegetarian (and there’s not a lot of vegetarian restaurants close to where I live), but it’s also because the price is high and the food is not that impressive.
It’s not about the food, really. It’s never only about the food. When I eat pizza, I always think about the pizza delivery guy, and how the people in the restaurant are treating me. I think about the view. I think about the toilet. I think about all the obvious things that matters when I’m at a restaurant.
But, I also think about the things that are not so obvious, like how they are treating kids. Why don’t they have a one of a kind playground. Why don’t they have some entertaining names for their food (why is a burger just a burger, make it the Save The Rain Forest burger). And speaking of the rain forest, it would be awesome if each dish at the restaurant was named after a charity and that we would be supporting the charity if we bought the food.
What I am saying is this, restaurants are competing not just against other restaurants that are located close by, they are competing against the kitchen at home. Most of us eat more food at home than in restaurants. When we go out to eat we want to experience something a lot better (a (a lot more interesting, and a lot more entertaining) than if we stayed at home. It’s what Marcus at The Sales Lion was saying. The price is not what it’s about, it’s the experience.
It feels like I am always thinking about fitness, but never doing anything about it. Well, I’m not alone. It seems that most people are like me. We are thinking about paying for working out in a gym, and some of us are even paying, but we’re not working out.
What’s the reason?
There are many answers, but it’s also about the competition. The gym should make people want to come, they should make the experience a lot different than if people bought some training equipment and used it at home (while watching TV). They should turn the gym into something more than a gym. Not just a place where people exercise and then go back home. Think about it, what’s related to fitness and exercise? That’s a lot. Why not combine the things and turn the gym into many things. A place where people hang out.
Exercise and food is obviously related. Why not have nutrition classes? It seems that a lot of single people are attracted to fitness, why not have a dating service as well. I know that this is happening already, but I’m saying it anyway, a baby sitter is necessary. But first and foremost, teach us what you’re doing and why you are doing it.
Training equipment get cheaper and more advanced. More and more people buy them and use (or I should probably write store) them at home. The competition for a fitness centre is our home. We can do almost all the exercises at home, on our own, why should we pay to be able to go to the gym?
I take a lot of pictures, and I even record video. I’m not good at it, not at all. But I am a lot better than most people were a few years ago. That’s because I am doing it a lot more (got more experience) and the equipment I am using is a lot better. The equipment is way cheaper as well, and most of the people I know have cameras only professional photographers were using a few years ago.
It seems that we’re all turning in to professional photographers. Even our mobile phones are brilliant when it comes to capturing photo and video. People get better and better at it. The competition for professional photographers are regular people, like you and me.
In order to survive, they would need to turn the experience into something that regular people can’t possibly do. The pictures should not only be a lot better, but the overall experience should be worth mentioning. Take them on a journey, and at the same time, tell them what you’re doing and why you are doing it. Become a teacher not just a person who will be delivering a product.
Would you hate to be a teacher?
No, you wouldn’t, not really. That’s because we are all teachers, already. But there’s another aspect of it. We are all out there competing, whether we know it or not. I believe that the real reason for it is the Internet, and the prices of technology. Competition is part of our nature, but it’s not about winning. It’s about fitting in, doing what everybody is doing, it’s about surviving.
SEO companies are competing against their customers. A lot of people already know a lot about search engine optimization. They search for it, they read articles. They don’t know all the stuff that SEO companies teach, but they know enough to start asking questions and do some of the stuff themselves.
Doctors are competing against their patients. When we get sick, we search for the symptoms and find answers. It might not help a lot, but when we talk to the doctor we already know what we think it is and we can engage in a conversation.
My dad is 69 years old, he’s on Facebook. He bought his first computer last year. He has never used a computer for about 68 years of his life, but guess what, he’s already an expert on Facebook.
I could have provided a lot more examples, but I think I proved my point. What I am saying is that we need to provide a better experience and a better learning environment than we already get at home.
I believe that (almost) no matter what we’re doing, we are competing against regular people and what they are doing inside their homes. We need to realize that this is happening. For instance, I can get a professional web design made by a person who’s at his home in India. It would be a lot cheaper and most of the time the work will be of a higher quality than if a web design company did it in Norway.
The easiest way to get a head of the competition is to make your relationship more personal. Today, we need to become friends with our customers. We need to make them part of the conversation. We need to discuss what’s going on. We need to help them learn. Make them understand their business and marketing. Turn business into friendship and don’t let go. But the most important part; teach them what you know, because soon they’ll learn it from someone else.
I am not saying that you should hang out at the cinema, or go to a fancy restaurant with your customers. All I am saying is that because your competition is not only companies any more, your efforts should be focused on inbound marketing. Make the customers want to come to you and not the other way around.