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How to Get Customers from Your Competitors

(Photo by Michael Webb/Keystone/Getty Images)

It’s no secret that customers are the lifeblood of any business. However, getting them, and even more importantly, keeping them, is often a challenge to even the most seasoned business owner. And, as we’ve seen in recent months, due to the economy, every customer is becoming more and more valuable with each passing day.

Two Ways to Get New Customers

In my opinion there are only two ways to get customers. One, you take them away from your competitors; and two, you create a customer where there was not one there before.

I will deal with the second way of getting a customer by asking you the following question. “How many people needed the Hula Hoop the day before it came out?” The answer is of course almost no one. But, once people had seen the product, there was an overwhelming demand for it from every kid in America. Millions were sold. A customer demand was created for a new product where there had not been a customer demand before.

What about finding customers for a common product that is already in use by thousands of people each day? Your son or daughter turns sixteen years of age. What happens? They are now drivers. They are car insurance customers, mechanic customers, oil change customers, tire customers, and car wash customers just to name a few. Learn where your new customers come from and how to reach them. Is it an age trigger, or an income trigger? In the case of the new drivers example, their parents, who might already be your current customers, would be a good place to start planting seeds.

How to Get Customers From Your Competition

Like most people, I hate change. Human beings like consistency. We develop shopping habits and resist any deviation from those habits unless it’s absolutely necessary. Fear of loss is always more powerful than expectation of gain. Asking the business owner to change requires specific methods that show a real benefit to the owner in more ways than just monetary savings. Unless the business owner is extremely dissatisfied with their current supplier they are going to be very resistant to trying someone new.

Where and How To Start

First, indentify the best customers your competitors have now. If you are going to take their customers, why not take their best customers? Next, develop a strategy for the number of times you are going to contact them. You must have a good reason for each ad or marketing message. It might be new product introduction, new services, or some new innovation. You should always be on the lookout for new “hot buttons” that will attract customers. Anything else is a time waster that will get you nowhere fast.

We are currently experiencing tough economic times. There is no guarantee that any business will still be in business a year from now. I’m not asking you to start any unsubstantiated rumors or lie about your competitors. But there is nothing wrong with suggesting that having a back-up supplier might not be a bad idea just in case the current supplier might not be able to perform as they have in the past. Grocery stores are a perfect example of an industry that has several backups for the hundreds of products they carry.

Keep in mind that there are always personnel changes. The buyer who never gave you the time of day might have moved on, and now a new person is in their place looking to make a good impression by saving the company time and money. A new person is often a great sales opportunity. Make sure you take advantage of it.

Improve Your Contacts

Contact any suppliers you might not currently have who supply the competitors you are targeting. See if you can work out a new customer discount that you can pass on to your new customer list. Work with your current suppliers for package deals or new customer discounts that you can offer your new prospect list.

Try for a small order just to prove your ability to deliver on your promises and follow though exactly as promised. Also make sure you follow up on your initial order to make sure there were no problems or miscommunication. Then continue to provide the best service possible. Always try to increase each order if possible.

Some Final Thoughts

It will take time to earn your new customer’s trust, so be patient. Slow and steady wins the race. Business is built on relationships and trust. Abuse either one with a new client and you may never get a second chance to do business with them. Every first time customer is an opportunity to develop a long time customer. Every contact can mean the difference between a successful business, or ordering a “Going Out of Business” sign.

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