Thursday, December 30, 2010

How to Beat the 800-lb. Gorillas in Your Market

How can you compete against the 800-lb. gorillas in your marketplace?

Don't play their game, by cutting your prices or trying to offer a bigger selection.

Instead, serve your customers in ways the big guys can't or won't match.

That's the marketing lesson in a New York Times interview with Joe Runyan, owner of a small dry cleaning store in Kansas City, Mo.

When Procter & Gamble opened a Tide-branded dry-cleaning facility 1.5 miles from the his Hangers Cleaners in 2008, "... Runyan feared Tide would undercut his prices and outspend him on promotional material to gain market share."

Turns out, those fears were overblown:
... Runyan said he was “thrilled” by his company’s performance this year. He said he had kept costs fixed but still expected revenue to increase 10 percent over 2009 as a result of both new customers and more business from existing patrons.
How did he do it? By doing 3 things that a behemoth like Procter & Gamble can't match:

1) offering pick-up and delivery service
2) offering a quirky corporate personality
3) reaching out to customers regularly via social media

Here's more from The New York Times story ...
Q. What advice do you give other dry cleaners trying to survive where Tide opens franchised stores?

Mr. Runyan: The entrance of Tide into our market forced us to consider how we’re different, what we can do that someone else won’t be able to replicate. So I tell them to perform a S.W.O.T. (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis like we did. Figure out how to accentuate your strengths and shore up your weaknesses. Forcing business owners to do that is a healthy thing, and hopefully they’re doing it before Tide or any competitor shows up.

Q. What’s your greatest weapon against a global brand like Tide?

Mr. Runyan: We’ve created a unique brand. We’re funny and edgy, and now that’s how our business is known. People like doing business with people they like.

It’s reinforced by our use of social media. Whether through Facebook or Twitter or our regular e-mails, I’m always getting feedback from customers who say they love hearing from us because our messaging is hilarious, whether or not they use the coupon attached.

Q. Such as?

Mr. Runyan: My personal favorite: a Mother’s Day promotion with a picture from the movie “Mommie Dearest” and my face superimposed on Joan Crawford’s daughter’s body. The slogan says, “Keep Mommie Dearest from ironing your shirts this Mother’s Day …” It still gives me the creeps

Or an e-mail with a picture of George Hamilton with the slogan: “After another year of braving the elements, is your favorite leather coat beginning to look like this?”

We still have people asking for our presidential T-shirts. We made one with a picture of Bill Clinton that says, “I wish Monica and I knew about Hangers,” and another one with George W. Bush that says, “After going to Hangers, spots are harder to find than weapons of mass destruction.” I’m trying to come up with an idea for Obama.
You can do this, too.

In baseball, you win when you "hit 'em where they ain't." And you don't have to be 6' 3" and 220 lbs. to do it.

In marketing, you win when you offer what competitors don't. And you don't have to be a multi-billion-dollar conglomerate to do it.

(More ideas like these in the Free Report, Guaranteed Marketing for Service Business Owners.)

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