It’s rare that I lose business to competitors, and it’s also not an accident. If you are losing business to your competitors, here are some strategies you can use to “become a category of one,” as they say in marketing.
1. Build your brand. In accounting, professional services, and coaching, our brand is our name. We can build it up by building our reputation for delivering results to clients and becoming a thought leader in the profession. Do this a number of ways: write articles, make speeches, offer teleseminars, post your testimonials and case studies, get interviewed by the press, serve on a committee or board of directors, and become a well-respected business leader in your community, to name a few. When you build your brand, people will come asking for you by name and won’t consider others.
2. Make clients money. Offer your services in a way that not only provides the compliance work that clients need, but that has them saving money or making more money so that your fees pay for themselves in the client’s eyes. This is best done by getting clear how your services provide a return on investment for a client. Often clients don’t even know how much you’ve saved them, so sometimes you need to overtly communicate this. When you turn your final deliverable over to a client, add a report that summarizes how much you have saved your client. This will go a long way toward getting great testimonials, more referrals, and increased client retention.
3. Stop hourly pricing. It’s far too easy to have a prospect ask your price and compare you with someone lower. Which is totally ludicrous, because no one can know how fast you are compared to someone else. So if you do hourly pricing, you have to let prospects know you are faster (if you are). The best way to get out of the whole price conversation is to bundle your services and develop fixed fee packages. Clients love the certainty of a fixed fee, and you totally sound like you know what you are doing when you have a package.
4. Become more client-centered. Listen. Develop your services at the intersection of your skill set and your client’s needs. You will benefit from constantly rolling out new products and services, and your client will think you can read their mind.
5. Learn marketing. If you are a great technician and a lousy marketer, you’re a best-kept secret. If you’re a great marketer and a lousy technician, you’ll have a lot of customer turnover. You need both skill sets to succeed in this economy. If your competitor is better than you at marketing and is an average technician, they’re likely to do just as well as you if you are a lousy marketer and a great technician. Sad but true.
6. Put some fun into your products or services. Last year, I had a contest and gave away an iPad. This year, we’re taking our top tier clients to a fancy resort in Phoenix and maybe even to the Bahamas. People are craving to have a little fun in their lives, so especially if you offer dentistry or taxes, it’s a great idea to make it as fun as possible. Figure out what your clients will like, and add it to your service package.
Try these six strategies to beat the competition in 2012.