You vs. The Competition
Every business has competition. Who will sell something for cheaper, or say bad things about your business in order to get the sale. You never have to be the fastest, the cheapest, the best, or the most diverse. You never have to be all those things. Find the things that are right for you and your business and that becomes your market and who you sell to.
Is the competition real or imagined?
Being the cheapest isn’t always the answer. If you look at other successful businesses, you’ll find that a lot of them aren’t necessarily the cheapest in their market. Price is not always the determining factor in whether a business is/will be successful or not.
When we ask ‘is the competition real or imagined’ what we’re talking about is perhaps there’s another local DTG business that advertises that if you buy 50 or more t-shirts you can get them at $7/each. The question you have to ask yourself is whether or not that business is really competition. Do you have customers that ask for a similar deal? Are they telling you that they may switch suppliers if you can’t meet the same price point? And also, what is that business really offering from their advertisement? The t-shirt may be $7, but it could be a low quality t-shirt, and that price may not include the cost of printing. When you see an ad for another business in the same market as you, don’t jump to conclusions that they are going to be competition.
Price doesn’t always matter, and you don’t want to be putting out fires before they start. When you see an ad for a business, the right move isn’t always to react (sometimes it will be). Stop and think about it, and make sure that it’s a real threat to your business before you turn around and start trying to brainstorm how you’re going to sell product.
Be what your customers need you to be
What are the advantages to doing business with you?
- Perhaps your customers appreciate that you’re really approachable and that they have direct contact with you (whether it’s you personally or your employees). You’re friendly with your customers and they feel a level of personal connection with you and your business.
- Having a diversity of products can benefit your customers to help them get what they need/want. Especially if your customer base is really diverse as well.
- Be price competitive. This doesn’t mean you need to have rock bottom prices, but what can you do to still meet your quality level and lower costs? Perhaps you can find a supplier that provides great quality shirts at a lower cost. Or you reduce packaging, or don’t do overnight shipping.
- You have product and supplies in your inventory. This goes back to a point we mentioned in Steps for Success in a New Year, have a 60-day supply of all the major things you use. So a customer isn’t waiting on you to get ink from a supplier before you can even start on their order.
- How do you deliver your product to the customer? In person can be a great advantage if the customer is in your local market.
- Maybe you provide a higher quality product. You’ve invested the time and money to research and bring in quality inks and threads and t-shirts that will wow your customer and provide them with a product that lasts.
- What about your error or missed delivery dates? Perhaps out of the last 50 customers, you had zero errors and they were all delivered on-time.
Write down at least three great reasons to do business with you. When you have all these things (and perhaps other benefits), when a customer comes to you and says “Company X can get me this order for $7/shirt”, you’re armed with all the reasons that customer should choose your business. Chances are that customer doesn’t have all the facts about your business, the products you offer, or the other company.
As a bonus, it’s great if you also have a story to go with each of your benefits. How did your benefits improve an existing customer’s experience?
All of these things will help build up trust with potential customers. And to gain further trust, you can direct them to some of your customers who can also recommend you.
Get your customers to buy into your philosophy about what makes you so unique. So when/if they do go to shop around, it makes it more of a challenge for them to find someone who can compete with you.
What do we mean by this?
If you’re a DTG printer and a customer comes in with a design, perhaps you have ideas on how you can make their design pop. Maybe add some extra color or do more of a gradient color. Get them to love the design. Because now, if they try to take that design to a screen printer, that person is going to have to talk the customer out of those things, because it’s just not possible with screen printing.
Or if you offer rhinestones, show them what their design could look like with a few rhinestones. The more you can combine your services to create a great product the less competition you have.
Perhaps you have a product that no one else offers, ex: neon rhinestones. Sell your customer on the neon rhinestones, because now they want them, and you’re the only place they can get them from.
What is the competition really selling?
Really take a look at the competition and what they’re offering. Are they really selling $7 t-shirts, or are there set-up fees, or perhaps the $7/shirt only applies after the first $150, does it only apply to small designs, or only max 3 colors, what kind of shirts are they printing (quality)? There’s a difference between cheaper and a better deal. Find out if the customer is really okay with that.
As an example, if the customer really wanted a design with 16 colors and to go to the competition they could only get 3 colors for the $7/shirt price, and to add those other colors would bring the shirt cost up to $14, perhaps that’s where your price point actually is. Or perhaps you’d only charge them $12 and the customer had no idea that your price would actually be cheaper.
Find out what they’re selling. Give them a call and make inquiries (or if you’re too shy, ask a friend). Ask them what kind of shirt they print on when they can deliver it. etc. Maybe even order a few t-shirts to really discover the quality and service for yourself. Another thing you may want to do is look up the company on Google and find out what their reviews are.
Tell your customer what you can deliver – it’ll be 512 colors, on X product, can be delivered in 3 days, and there’s no delivery fee. Then ask them if that’s the same thing the other company is offering.
The all-important quote
Often times if you’re honest with the customer about what you want and what you’re willing to do, most people will respond very well.
“I want to earn your business. I also want to maintain a high-quality product and the three things I mentioned about my business (customer service, diversity of product, delivery times, etc.). But I might be able to work with you on this deal. Have you gotten a physical quote from them? Get that and I will be happy to look at it with you and if I can do something different or better I will. I’m going to prepare a quote for you about what we talked about. Then you need to compare it to see what’s different. If you’re willing to share it with me and let’s talk about together and go from there.”
Maybe they are a better deal
Be prepared, that after you do all these things, you might still cost more. Their business might have great reviews. They might be really nice people. They might have the same printer and embroidery machine you do. And they’re able to provide a lower cost because they work out of their home (and you have a storefront or shop). Or they have a large business and so can provide lower costs because they buy in bulk and pass those savings on.
If that’s the case, you might just have to bow out and be respectful about it.
What is that customer worth?
Sometimes, if everything is equal, it’s okay to match their price. Because what you really have to think about is ‘What is that customer worth to you?” Know the value of gaining that customer. Perhaps the other company has figured out that the customer will order 4 times a year. So they’ve set their price a little lower because they know they’ll get additional orders from them. Or perhaps they’ve worked with the customer before, and they know that the customer is really easy to work with, and their images/artwork is always really clean – they’re a no-hassle customer. So the company doesn’t mind making a little less.
You’ve got to figure this out as well. As an example, that initial sale would originally be $700 ($14 x 50 shirts). If you were to match the competitor’s price of $12/shirt it would be $600. But as we’ve already stated that customer orders 4 times a year, turning that into $2400, plus whatever additional lifetime value you perceive that customer to have.
It’s often the customers that try to wiggle you down to the lowest possible deal, that is the hardest to work with. They will do this to you every time, and will still think they got ripped off (even if you show them the numbers). They are often not worth whatever you make off their order.
It’s the customers that you really sell yourself to and that buy into your business that says “I really want to buy shirts from you. What’s the price? Sounds good.” They’re the customers that are going to come back. They’re going to talk about you more.
Don’t be afraid to let a customer go if the stress and effort of dealing with them doesn’t compensate for the profit you make off their order.
Are you selling to the right market?
If you’ve done all the above, you’ve got your advantages, you’ve made sure the competition is real, and you looked at the actual deal, and it’s really a great deal and a good company, but you still can’t get there to earn that particular kind of customer or business, you’ve got to take a look at your business as a whole and say “Are you selling to the right people or the right market?”
Sometimes you’ve got to change the concept of what you’re selling. Perhaps you decide you want to sell embroidered caps and you’ve come up with a cost of $14. But the market around you is selling them for $12. You might be higher than the market value, but you need to think about how you can make it different – think outside the box. We have one customer who instead of doing embroidery directly on the hats embroidery patches and then heat sticks the patches onto the hats. It looks different and no one else around him is doing that. He has to charge a little bit more for the patches, but he has something unique.
If you start your business thinking that you only want to sell to one particular niche market and you find that another business is selling to that niche market at $8/hat, instead of typing to compete or take over, maybe you switch your niche market. Don’t be discouraged if you go into business with the intent to sell to a particular market and that market doesn’t work out for you. This is common in any kind of business. Find another one.
Find the three reasons why your customers should buy from you and you can do better in business.