I know this may come as a shock, but (whispering), we have competitors. I know, I know, you never dreamt of looking elsewhere for your soapmaking supplies but if you had, you may find one or (eh hem) 50 fellow soapmaking supply companies. Recently on our FB page, someone asked how to deal with competitors and what my philosphy was. I promised to write a blog post on her question because if she had that question, others will.
My philosophy on competitors is this:
Having quality competitors elevates the industry and my commitment to excellence in all actions.
The nuts and bolts of this is the following:
(1) Terms matter. Competitors are referred to in our office as “Fellow Vendors”. The reason for this is simple: um, because they are fellow vendors. The term “competitors” implies unfriendly, grrrrrr!, gladiators in the sport of business to the death. The phrase “fellow vendors” says that we’re all in this together, that we’re a team, that we all serve at the pleasure of our customers. And, that term also says that we’re all in it for the right reasons – because we believe that what we do makes a difference in families and their opportunity to make a great living selling soap.
(2) Be attentive but don’t base your business off of other peoples’ business moves. I monitor my fellow vendors sites. I look at what their FB pages say. I read their Twitter feeds. I’ll glance at their blogs. But in a month, I spend 1-3 hours maximum doing this. I want to be up on what industry trends are and want to be sure that I’m not falling behind any trends but ultimately, my goal is to LEAD and stay ahead. I want Bramble Berry to be creating trends, to be leading the pack and to be the one to chase – not the other way around. So, while I don’t ignore my fellow vendors, rarely do their business decisions impact mine.
(3) Do not criticize in public. You may very well know that one of your fellow soapmakers is LYING about claims they are making for their lotion ingredients. It is hard to stay silent when you hear other people saying, “Well, so and so doesn’t use ANY preservatives in their lotion! I’m going to buy from them!” but you must hold your tongue. People remember the bearer of bad news; they do not remember the bad news. They only remember that you were critical. Stay silent, take the high road and just come up with positive, forward-sounding answers for this. “Well, I use safe preservatives at less than 1% in my lotions because there is a chance that unpreserved lotions could mold or have bacteria contamination so that’s a choice that we’ve made to keep ourselves and our customers safe.”
(4) Continuous, small innovation is the key to outpacing and outlasting your competition. Be so focused on your own business and taking baby steps to your bigger goal that you continue to offer different products and drive a bigger wedge between you and your fellow soapmaker with branding, lines of products and sales strategy. Figure out your X factor and pursue it with dogged, single minded focus. Let your fellow soapmakers inspire you to do better and excel on your own individual path, every single day.
(5) There is enough to go around. Just because your fellow soapmaker sells a bar of soap to someone at a Farmer’s Market doesn’t mean that you can’t also sell a bar of soap to that same person. The market is big. You have to believe that you can all co-exist in a friendly, easy going, manner. Because …. you CAN! The world is a big place. Everyone uses soap. There is a market for your product and it’s HUGE. Even if you have to share it with others, it’s big enough for you all.
That’s my philosophy on co-existing with with others in the same marketplace. I’d love to hear your philosophy or thoughts about mine.
Note: I edited this post a few hours after posting it to clarify some of the points and make my intent for the post clearer.