No matter what the retail business may be, a lot of mom and pop shops have thrown in the towel over the last decade or two. Mass merchants roll through towns like unstoppable steam trains, and all the initial resident uproar and town hall meetings fall short of their goals. In the words of the creepy old Oncler from Dr. Suess’s The Lorax, “Business is business, and business must grow…”
How do we compete, you ask? With these large retailers who outsource their parts and labor to China and beyond, their prices will beat yours every single time. They are everywhere, in nearly every town, and they don’t close their doors when our hard-working American families sit down to supper together. Mass merchants have the money and power to advertise circles around small businesses, and often, government backing through big-biz tax breaks. It’s frustrating. It’s maddening. But is it a lost cause?
Release Your Inner Warrior
Chances are, if the preceding paragraphs got your back up and your lip curled, then you have got enough warrior in you to fight back. It’s not a losing cause. It’s all about strategy – and it’s one we utilize at PC-Products Epoxies. We are all-American, we never outsource, we continue to grow, and we are Proud of Our Ethics.
Here is our own “PC-Products take” on just how to battle like a warrior:
1. Never slash prices to compete. If you get drawn into this trick, you will lose. Discount prices attract discount customers who don’t care about loyalty or quality, and you will just lose your profit margin. Our epoxy repair products are priced higher than many of our competitors – but we won’t lower them – because they are made to last and work.
2. Brand, brand, brand. If you haven’t done this, sit down and think this through. What is it about your company, and your core values that you want to transmit to your loyal customers? You will want to promote this message in every bit of marketing you utilize, and all your employees should know it in their sleep. Our own motto is “FIX YOUR THINGS with PC-Products.” We sell products that will help our clients with all wood restoration projects, concrete repair, plumbing repairs – so pretty much anything that needs fixing – we have a paste or putty epoxy repair product to help.
3. Don’t overstock. Hardware stores in particular are known for over-packing their aisles full of interesting stuff to browse through. The trouble is, without a clear merchandising plan with a customer focus, your shoppers may feel a bit lost, and that trolling aisle after aisle may be too frustrating and time consuming. Pick the brands you are most pleased with and focus on them. If a customer asks you “WHY this product? “ – have a good answer ready. The PC-Products answer is: We contend that if you want your money’s worth, always look for the PC on the label.
4. Make service your top priority. We are talking EXTREME customer service – the kind they won’t get anywhere else, and will bring them back to you again. You must choose employees with interpersonal skills, as well as knowledge about your products. Your salespeople may know exactly how to fix a plumbing leak, but you MUST give them the tools and scripts they need to be able to feel safe and positive talking to customers. It also helps to add value to your sales by suggesting other complementing products the customer didn’t initially ask for, but would certainly make their task easier or longer lasting.
Find Your Niche
According to Ken Stone, an Iowa State economics professor, “Hardware chains in particular — and I did a lot of work [consulting] for True Value and Ace — finally learned that they had to specialize and find niches. And the first niche was service. They gave better service.”
Figure out a way to make the “extreme service approach” come first in your business. Make personal and lasting connections with your customers, and don’t stop when they walk out your door. Keep in touch through email, newsletters, mailers, and social media. Stellar service and a great brand message or philosophy will keep you one step ahead of the big guys!