ICS Magazine

Your 9-Step Marketing Plan - Step 5

February 10, 2009


During the past four months I have been outlining a marketing plan that, when followed, can help you grow a phenomenally successful business.

You see, most small-business owners don’t have a real plan, a written, documented plan that is well thought out; they just react to circumstances.

You may be feeling the effect of that scenario right now. It’s wintertime, and you don’t have enough business coming in. What’s worse is you don’t have enough to pay the bills either.

Both Steve Toburen and I have written volumes about “overcoming the wintertime blues,” so go back into the ICS archives at www.icsmag.com and review some of the past winter articles to find that information.

If you find yourself in that position, make a promise to yourself that you will plan better next year to be sure and make the best of the “slow season.” I know a very successful business owner, John Torres, who calls the slow season the “Opportunity Season” because it gives him time to think, plan, and build new relationships that will take his business and life to the next level. Obviously, if he was desperate to pay his bills during that time, he would not be able to take the time to think, plan, and relate. The fact that he planned for the “Opportunity Season” is the key.

To this point, we’ve looked at:

Step 1: Set Your Sales Goals
Step 2: Outline a “Description of Your Service”
Step 3: Position Yourself
Step 4: Identifying Your Target Market

Pull out your past issues of ICS or go to www.icsmag.com to learn more about the first four steps. In the meantime, let’s look at:

Step 5: Competition Assessment

You want to determine who your competition really is, and you want to assess what they offer and what they don’t offer to determine how you will set yourself apart. No, I’m not talking about calling every carpet cleaner in town to see what the “going rate” is, unless you are trying to be the cheapest around, which is not a good strategy.

What you want to do is think about who your target market considers your competition. Then determine what they do and what they don’t do that is important to your target market.

Do they show up on time? Do they do background checks? Do they offer the cleaning steps that you offer? What kind of reputation do they have? What kind of experience do they have? What kind of training do they have? What kind of systems do they use? How is their customer service? Do they offer a guarantee?

One of the biggest ways to set yourself apart is to determine what they don’t do or what they do badly and capitalize on that. For example, when you survey carpet cleaners in your area as a whole, you find that most of them don’t show up on time. This one, simple example can give you a great edge in your marketing. What if you offered an “on-time guarantee”? If you aren’t on time, they get a reward, and if you have to re-schedule, they don’t pay! You can take each and every area and find a way to set yourself apart.

Of course, calling companies to find out what they say they do is a start, but you may want to “mystery shop” them as well. We have done this on occasion, and found out that we don’t have much to worry about when it comes to customer service!

But much of the difference between you and someone else is hidden from the customers’ eyes. They call your competition and are told that they do all the right things. You know different, so you talk about those things.

Next, identify the different types of companies in your industry. Even though they may not be direct competitors, your customer is getting solicited by them and they need to know what the difference is. The bait-and-switch companies are easy. In fact, exposing them for who they are (not by name, just by practice) is one of the easiest and best ways to set yourself apart. We have a fictional character called “Bubba” that everyone can identify with.

But the bait-and-switch operator is probably not who is cleaning your clock. It’s probably the larger company that has a brand. They have a large advertising budget and big specials. You wonder how they stay in business. Their profit margin is probably a lot lower than yours. They are doing $3 million at 10 percent. You are doing $100,000 at 50 percent or $500,000 at 20 percent, so you can’t afford to do the same kind of advertising and run the kinds of specials they run.

You need to set yourself apart.

So what do these big companies leave out? Do they offer things (other than perceived price) that you don’t? Take a long look and think about how to capitalize on it.

Your Biggest Competition Is...

I was visiting a company that has referred us for many years when the long-time owner peered over the paper he was reading and blurted out, “Who’s your biggest competition?”

My response: “That would be me.”

Puzzled, he looked at me and said, “What?”

I explained: “Your biggest competitor is the one that greets you each morning in the mirror. Ask yourself, are you doing everything you possibly can to market your company? Have you consistently done really smart things to stay on the cutting edge? Have you become a student of marketing? There are so many things that you can do today. From learning how to deliver a powerful message to the marketplace about how you are different, to being faithful to market to your clients, to being diligent about going out and building powerful business relationships, to being savvy about what’s happening on the Internet today.”

By simply doing these things, you will see much more success. How do I know that? Simple. Over the past decade of coaching small-business owners and operating as a thought leader in our industry, I have found that those who are not successful in getting lots of business coming in are usually those who either don’t have good marketing skills (that can be learned), or they don’t have the inspiration to implement the marketing strategies that need to be put into action consistently. Those who act get results. Even if it isn’t the best strategy, they learn as they go. But the big difference is that they do what unsuccessful people don’t.

And why do they do it? They are inspired. They are excited about what they do. If you aren’t, then pick up some motivational material, get around some inspirational people and get with the program! A big future is waiting for you.

My passion is your success!