How well do you know your competitors? A bit, but not enough. We’ve been told since Business 101 that we need to keep an eye on that competitor down the street. So you probably have a good handle on your competitors’ products and services, their prices, maybe even their quality and customer service. Important bits of information one and all—but that knowledge is lacking power.
Understanding your competitors certainly has its merits, but there’s really nothing you can do to change how they operate. Instead of focusing on their haves and have nots, why not focus on this: What are you doing to set yourself apart from that competitor? That you have complete control over. It’s something you can focus on today and see real results tomorrow. So let’s get started with five easy-to-implement tips.
1. Pay Attention
Your public is talking about you, I promise. Some things you hear will be positive, some things you hear will not, but make sure you’re listening to what they have to say. Be sure you are utilizing a tool to make listening easier. There are lots of choices out there to keep an ear and an eye on your company and competitors, but to start, focus on one. I would recommend Google Alerts.
Simply tell Google Alerts which keywords you would like to watch and Google will notify you via email each time it is running through sites on the Web and comes across your chosen word. Keywords to consider would be your company name, your competitors’ names, and even your personal name as well as the names of key staff members. There truly isn’t an easier way to keep an eye on the Web without searching and surfing for hours a day.
2. Talk Back
If your customers or prospects are talking about you on social media sites or elsewhere on the Web, make sure you are a part of the conversation. Create a Facebook fan page, then seek out your customers and ask them to become fans of your page. This shouldn’t be hard if they are pleased with the service you provide.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. As you watch your uncle post about his latest fishing trip on Facebook, you can’t help but wonder why your customers would be interested in this type of conversation with you. That requires a shift if your thinking. Think of Facebook as a business tool, not a personal one. That’s why you’re creating a fan page, not a personal profile page.
Once you have this fan page set up, start talking. Engage with your customers about an exciting project you are working on, talk about a new service you plan to offer. Just start talking and encourage your fans to talk back.
Authenticity is truly the name of the game when it comes to social media. Don’t get paralyzed by saying the perfect thing in response to a customer’s praise (or not-so-positive comment). Saying something—anything—is so much better than saying nothing at all. The more you encourage your customers to engage and carry on a conversation with you, the more you’ll be able to capitalize on this tool. The benefits of positive comments from your customers are obvious; the ability to respond to negative comments quickly and sincerely is even more powerful.
One other social media sphere in which to set up shop is LinkedIn. Why? Professional print buyers are on LinkedIn, so you should be too. LinkedIn is just one more opportunity to have genuine interaction with your customers and prospects while remaining in a very business appropriate environment.
Once you’re set up, seek out your customers and invite them to link in to you. Then encourage them to talk with you online as much as they would like; your job is to keep that conversation going.
One last tip about your conversations on social media sites: Don’t worry about how many fans you have at first. That will come with time as long as you keep talking and responding.
And consider this, if your Facebook fan page only has 50 fans, but one of those fans has 400 friends, your message could hit more people than you could ever hope for within minutes. All you have to do is get that fan to respond to just one of your posts, then their entire group of friends will see the writing on your wall.