I once went to a seminar on how small retailers could convince their competitors' clients to switch and do business with them. The speaker outlined several strategies for cultivating relationships with prospects loyal to other brands to eventually win them over as customers.
How long should they keep trying these strategies, one lumberyard owner asked?
"Until they buy...or they die," the speaker replied.
If the construction-company buyer you were targeting died, of course, then a new buyer would be hired -- and you could start trying to win the company's business all over again.
The process of trying to increase your market share is a continuous one. You can never stop trying to win new customers. After all, your competitors are probably trying to win your customers over right now.
And in this economy, let's face it -- where else are you going to get customers than by taking them away from your competitors?
This all came to mind as I perused author/speaker Ross Shafer's new book Grab More Market Share -- How to Wrangle Business Away from Lazy Competitors. The book lays out a slew of strategies for growing your business by stealing away competitors' customers.
Here are five of Shafer's tips for snatching more market share, even now, when the economy is expanding by just 1%:
1. Stay relevant through innovation. One great way to gain market share is to spot new trends ahead of competitors. Listen carefully when you're chatting with friends, watching the news, or listening to kids talk about what they like. Think about how new technology might change your industry -- that was Netflix's opening to crush Blockbuster. There may be a change in the wind your business can jump on.
2. Respond to customers -- fast. Remember when leaving a voicemail recording that says, "I'll get back to you within 24 hours" seemed responsive? Not any more. In this age of real-time Twitter customer-support, shoppers are increasingly loyal to the company that can fix their problem right now. Check out how fast your competitors respond, and then be faster, and customers will take notice.
3. Use customers' ideas. Companies such as Threadless have thrived by putting customers at the center of their business and letting them design their t-shirts. Keep an open channel for customer ideas -- one of them might be your next hit product.
4. Snap up competitors. Sometimes the easiest way to get more customers is to simply buy them. Watch for competitors that might be up for sale and purchase their customer lists. Shafer loves Baron Rothschild's famous quote, "The time to buy is when there is blood in the streets." Capitalize on today's economic chaos to solidify your business's position.
5. Be more flexible. Are your competitors still expecting workers to warm a chair from 9 to 5 in their office every weekday? You could steal their best people by simply offering more flexibility in how and where people work.
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