Having a competitor set up shop next door or up the street is every small business owner’s worst nightmare. What should you do when you can step outside and wave hello to a competitor from across the street?
To keep your doors open, you’ll have to take extra steps to stay ahead of your competition. Here are four ways to take action when a competitor becomes your neighbor:
Before you put the company in your brain’s “Competition” folder, find out what they do. You might find that they’re not direct competitors. Jennifer Schaus, owner of Jennifer Schaus and Associates, a Washington, D.C.-based marketing and strategic planning consulting firm that helps companies sell to the U.S. government, competes with several nearby businesses on K Street in D.C. But she was able to work with a competitor when she discovered they each offered services the other did not. While he assists small businesses with SBA certification, she offers marketing and social media services. They’re able to send clients to each other and profit from their relationship.
2. Set yourself apart.
Find out what you’re able to do better than your competition. Schaus couldn’t charge hundreds of dollars per hour like some of her competitors, but she started hosting a monthly networking event for business-to-government professionals. She hosts it at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a prestigious venue in D.C., which helps project a professional image of her business. Eventually, her competitors started coming to the event as well. “At first I was irritated, but then I realized if more experienced businesses are coming to my events, I’m doing something right,” she says.
3. Spruce up your displays.
Consumers are attracted to clean and well-designed storefronts and spaces. Rajendra Hariprashad of Ena’s Driving School revamped his building after another driving school moved in directly across the street in the Queens borough of New York City. “I made our signs brighter with flashing strobe lights and the inside of our office cleaner,” he says. The changes brought in more business.
4. Keep it diplomatic.
Remember that your competitor is just another business that’s trying to make a profit. Welcome them to the neighborhood, and look at this as a chance to invest in your own business. Though Hariprashad spent some money fixing up his driving school, he made a bottom line profit of $100,000. “I thought, wow, this guy actually helped me,” he says.
Related Resource: Soliciting Customers from Failing Competitors