Defining Your Business: About Your Competitors
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As with all businesses, you will have competition. At first it may not seem obvious, especially if you've carefully chosen your niche and location. It will take a little investigative work to determine where your potential customers currently get their engraved products. You may be surprised to find out that in some instances they are purchased through the mail. Some companies provide a wide range of gift items that can be personalized. Others specialize in just one product: pet tags or engraved safety and directional signage, for example. A visit to the local chain hardware store will reveal different types of signage that can be purchased without special order. Don't let this form of competition discourage you. This is not the business most engravers want nor are they easy to compete with. Focus on the other local engraving shops that fail to offer your line of products or services and capitalize on their weaknesses. Here's a list of items to consider when developing a strategy to beat your competitors:
- Store or business hours. This may seem obvious, but it's often overlooked. With careful planning, you could become the only game in town at certain times of each day, or on particular days of the week. Early or late business hours, for example, can be a convenient plus for your customers.
- Depth of products. Never underestimate the appeal of unique items.
- Presentation. In other words, a clean shop with good examples of your work. Most people prefer to work with someone who maintains a professional appearance.
- Quick delivery. This speaks for itself.
- Quality. Sometimes this can be difficult to demonstrate to the untrained eye, but every effort to do a good job and standing by your work contributes toward creating a loyal repeat customer.
- A Fair price. Notice I didn't say the "cheapest" price. Don't ever assume you can always win on price. Oftentimes, customers are skeptical of the lowest price in town. Sure, there are bargain hunters in every crowd, but many people believe that they get what they pay for. As long as you're fair, you can compete on the other factors that separate you from the rest of the engravers in your area, even if your price is higher.
It may come as a surprise to many readers, especially those of you who are new to the awards and recognition industry, that many engravers willingly share their expertise, knowledge and ideas with their competitors. You're probably wondering why. I did too when I first joined the industry. I believe it is because most of us share a love for this industry and we accept that there is plenty of business out there to go around. I am pleased to report that most engravers not only share their experiences with each other, but also will often refer work to the local shop best able to do the job. So, don't overlook the advantages of making friends "in the business."