Everything has an alternative. Here’s how to make sure customers choose your business.

marketing startup strategy Dec 19, 2020

3 min read

That initial rush of excitement you have when that lightbulb moment hits you is pretty unbeatable. And it lasts until your first Google search when you realize just how many competitors are actually out there. Even if your niche isn’t saturated, everything always has an alternative. Cue second-guessing!

Let’s get our terminology straight first.

Competitors offer essentially the same products or services as you and can replace your business in serving the customer’s needs. Substitutes offer the same solution as your business but not necessarily the same product or service. For example, if you run a restaurant, your competitors would be all of the other restaurants in your locality. Substitutes would be customers spending money at the grocery store and cooking at home or meal delivery services. 

Another example is a coffee shop. The coffee shop’s competitors are all the other places that serve coffee in the vicinity. The customer’s alternatives could be making coffee at home or choosing to drink another beverage.

All of this means that while marketing your business, you have to show why you're the right choice among your competitors AND why you're the right choice among all the substitutes the customer has.

Before you go down the rabbit hole of doubting your idea, see how you can tweak it so it stands out no matter what the scenario is. 

Make it prettier

Emotions play a huge part in the purchase journey. And the way something looks largely dictates the emotions, or lack thereof, someone will associate with it. We buy things we believe will look good on us or around us. We also buy because of the perception a product or service gives off about us. People buy designer bags when they could buy cheaper alternatives that meet the same need (aka something to carry our stuff) because of the perception about their status that particular bag radiates. 

The way to stand out here is to create a recognizable product or service that sends a strong message. Going back to the bag example, if you’re a bag designer, you want to make sure your product sends a clear message about what it represents and that it’s unique to you. Others can have similar designs, but they cannot mimic the emotion or meaning your product represents to the customer. 

Make it work better

If your product or service simply works better, that’s a step up from all of the other companies offering the same thing. What does better mean? More efficient, faster, easier, etc. It could be a coaching program that offers faster results or an easier way to organize closets. No matter what you’re selling, there is a way to improve it and thus stand out among your competition.

Once a customer tries out what you’re offering and is convinced of the better experience, they’ll choose you every time. But prior to that you must work on gaining their initial trust by offering statistics, facts, and reviews that backup your claims of being “better.”

Make it more convenient

We’re a society that highly values convenience. Customers’ lives are stressful enough, so they prefer buying things from businesses that cause the least amount of friction in their lives. Convenience takes shape in many forms, including shipping something to consumers fast, simplifying the check out process, saving them time while doing a task, etc. You get the point, convenience is anything that makes your customer’s life easier.

These three categories aren’t mutually exclusive, meaning you could very well fine tune your business to hit all of them. The best course of action for a successful business that beats out competitors is to specialize in one of the three areas while also being a competitive force in the other two. That's the true jackpot!


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