Since the 1950s, there has been an explosion in the products and services on offer. There is nothing consumers can’t buy and there is nothing new businesses can offer. This is a world of saturation and commoditisation. So, what next? If this conventional wisdom is correct and every conceivable market has been taken, how can you gain market share from the incumbents? This is the nagging preoccupation of every busy entrepreneur.
Here are seven steps to steal market share from your competition.
Step 1: Act with a spy’s stealth.
If your market is competitive, you need to understand who you’re up against. Each rival will be slightly different and you need to know their relative strengths and weaknesses, variations in business models employed and longevity in the field. Without this basic information, you are on a journey without a map.
Step 2: Start with painstaking product design. Dare to offer difference.
To steal market share from your competition, you then take the information you have about them and dare to be different. This is no time for busy entrepreneurs to be queasy. You are trying to dislodge the enemy from its hilltop fortress. Only unexpected and bold action will give you a chance. Focus on any one or all of the following product design elements: benefits, price, cost, niche, brand and customer experience. Dream anything which answers: “What would make my customers call their friends to spread the word?” or “What would my customers find genuinely breathtaking?”Factor in customer satisfaction from the beginning.
Step 3: Abandon your instincts. Test, test and retest.
Typically, entrepreneurs trust their instincts, are impatient for results and cost conscious. These traits, normally central to success, can lead to an unintended mistake when trying to take market share. Firstly, confident entrepreneurs with strong egos and belief in their instincts can overlook the need for testing. Secondly, testing sounds like a costly impediment to results-hungry entrepreneurs with an itch for fame. My advice: test. Check your instincts. It doesn’t need to cost a cent and can even be done in a day. Simply tell ten people in your target market about your idea. You’ll be surprised what they say. Yes, ten is enough and probably far better than most businesses launched.
Step 4: Differentiate with gusto. Attack with vigour.
Write your marketing material to emphasise your difference. Don’t be coy or shy. Make this point of contrast immediately and boldly. Don’t be afraid to contrast your offering with that of your #1 rival. In fact, go for glory. Be cheeky and ambitious by trying to dislodge the glamour brand in your industry. If I were a betting man, I’d guess it would take your incumbent months or even years to respond directly to your guerrilla tactics. In the meantime, you’re already eroding their market share.
Step 5: Obsess about your promise. Deliver and fulfil.
Having designed, tested and hyper-marketed, you need to actually deliver on your promise. Without fulfilment, your new brand is dead. Remember, you have to dislodge the incumbent from his hilltop fortress.
Step 6: Let curiosity drive marketing experimentation. Record the results.
Differentiation requires constant attention, reassessment and adjustment. Experiment with your promotion, focusing on message then media. Do your prospects respond to greed or fear? Which angles are best? Do they respond better when urgency is applied? If so, which angle is most effective? With media, you have a whole armoury at your disposal: comprehensive direct marketing campaigns, outdoor signs, radio, affiliate programs, samples, SEO, word-of-mouth, TV, social media, magazine advertisements. When you find a message and medium which resonates, repeat it. Adapt messages to remain fresh and sharp. Finally, record the findings of your experiments with the meticulous care and curiosity of a clinical trial.
Step 7: Evangelise and celebrate customer satisfaction. Covert the world.
Once you have customers, continue talking with them. Ask how they heard about you so you know what’s working. If you have happy customers, here’s a simple technique to wed them to you and build another promotional opportunity: ask them for a testimonial. You can ask for a verbal testimonial, an email, letter, audio or even video. Whatever you do, ask customers to help you share your message with the world. Even better, simultaneously have your customers talk about how easy it was to switch to you whilst offering prospects incentives to switch. Above all, celebrate customer satisfaction and evangelise the benefits they’ve gained.