Keep Your Competitors Closer

Freelancers get business by three methods:

1). Proposals, ideally submitted by invitation and not “cold”

2.) Referrals, made on our behalf  by a source the client trusts

3). Reputation, meaning repeat business from our client roster

The most successful Freelancers skillfully promote the urban legend that we provide exceptional services, solutions and expertise that clients can absolutely depend upon. That perception creates trust and  gives our clients the confidence to bring us in when a project is approved for outsourcing.  Your client is convinced that when you are on the scene, an excellent job will be done and with a  minimum of fuss.  You will make them look good.

Competitive intelligence will provide important building blocks for your story.  One must periodically assess the strengths and weaknesses of  major competitors:  compare and contrast products and services offered, observe how they market themselves,  make note of selling points that are emphasized  and learn how you stack up.  It helps us to look from “outside in”  at how our services and business practices might be perceived by clients.

Analyze and benchmark

  • Compare your services to those of competitors:  what do they do sufficiently well that  motivates clients to hire them?
  • What do they do incompletely or perhaps poorly?
  • Who is on their client roster and which are their target markets?
  • Who are the front runners among your competitors and how did they get there?
  • What relationships and/or competitive advantages do they leverage to get business?
  • What is showcased on their websites and in other marketing materials?
  • Where do they advertise?
  • Does an internet search bring up good PR or anything noteworthy?
  • With whom do they collaborate or partner?

Define your competitive advantages

  • Catalogue what you do that clients  value
  • What services do you offer that your competitors do not and what value do your clients place on those services?
  • Audit your customer groups—have you ignored a possible niche market?
  • What relationships might you leverage to give you the edge when submitting  bids and obtaining referrals?

Create the spin

  • What common themes do you see in the marketing messages of your competitors? What do the front runners say to clients?
  • Where do you see yourself as offering the better value proposition? How can you most effectively communicate that to clients?
  • How can you  retool your message to highlight services or buzzwords that grab the clients? Reflect those in your marketing materials, advertisements and on your website.  Incorporate into your elevator pitch and sales talking points.
  • Build a PR campaign around an event that features you—a speaking engagement,  a workshop you will present, the relaunch of a service.  Send out press releases and follow up with phone calls.  Develop relationships with the business press by taking the right person to lunch or coffee and talk over ways to get your name mentioned.
  • Advertise,  however modestly,  in publications that your target audience follows.  Advertisements should lead to editorial,  however brief,  being written about you.
  • Cultivate relationships within the industries that you service,  either directly with those who may hire you,  or with those who can influence decision makers.

Keeping an occasional eye on competitors will yield many benefits.  Competitive intelligence  keeps us in the loop about which clients are hiring and the demand for workers within our field,  keeps us abreast of the activities of our professional peers,  makes benchmarking possible and helps us to sell our services more effectively.  Competitors help us to sharpen and clarify our approach to business.  They make us better.

Competitors need not be sworn enemies, despite the adversarial position that must be assumed when vying for market share.  Competitors have much to teach us about doing business.  In fact,  judiciously cooperating with competitors is good business.  There may even be occasions when competitors will collaborate.  Frenemy is perhaps the best way to describe the ideal relationship to our competitors.  Use them as you strategize to grow your client list.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

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