When it comes to business, one should always be prepared to face competition, whatever type of business it is and where ever it is operated from. One should never underestimate their competition and should always keep an alert for newcomers to the field, because they are usually quick on their foot and can change directions or course quickly. This guide provides not only general purpose tactics but also some tips & tricks to keep your competitors at bay or eliminate them. When it comes to business, one should be ruthless but within the legal boundaries, otherwise your venture will become an illegal one. You might probably find some of the information in this guide pretty much 101 type stuff (general knowledge) but you will also find some other tactics have been used to succesfully to overthrow mighty competitors. The author requests the reader to take their own informed decision when trying to use any of the information given in this guide; what is applicable for one situation or type of business might not be applicable at all for another. Hence please don’t follow the techniques blindly, rather research well, take a contratrian view and put yourself in the shoes of your customers and competitors in order to get the full 360 degree picture.
Pricing; This is the most common method that one can use to undercut their competition. For example, if your competitor is offering Product A for 100$, you can offer the same at 99.99$. While simple, it can be very effective but the problem with this method is that nothing stops your competitor from doing the same. It can become a race to the bottom if one tries to over do this technique. In order to avoid losses or prevent your margins from eroding, chalk out a plan to see how to minimize your costs of acquiring the product. One is that you can buy in bulk at very cheap rates and this way you can price it really cheap when selling. The more you sell, the more you can bargain with the supplier and the more cheaply you can sell them for. At one point, either your competitor has to sell at a loss or has to do something else dramatic to make a turnaround. Now this technique is easier said than done; it is possible that your supplier might not have bulk purchase discount options. In this case, try finding other suppliers or manufacturers who can get the same product at a better price; it might mean importing from another country, state or city but would be worth a try.
Scorched earth strategy; This involves preventing your competitors from executing a new idea or trying to enter a new market even if it means that you lose money in that process or get zero profit. This type of strategy is mostly used to strengthen the moat and is seen as a preventive mechanism. For example, an established construction materials sales shop can sell paint at zero profit and thus prevent their next door competitor from opening an exclusive paint store; instead the shop owner can make profit selling brushes. That is, make a loss on one product and make up for the loss by selling another related high margin product (brushes are required to paint).
Customer Service; This is one aspect which most business owners fail to understand and execute properly. It could mean paying individual attention to the customer, a courtesy call or thank you message during the festive season, a little gift after every purchase or just being humble, attentive & supportive to their needs or being proactive in letting them know about problems in the product or distruptions in service. Good customer service means that you get repeat customers and your company’s brand becomes popular due to word of mouth; people will end up taking your services or buying from you even if it means that the price is on the higher side, provided your customer service is top notch. Show them that they are valued more than what your competitor values them.
Bring in newer technologies; One will have to adopt new technologies and products in order to stay alive and ahead of the competition. For example if your company was manufacturing cameras which requires film rolls, it would have become extinct or bankrupt by now if you did not start selling digital cameras. Time and again many big companies rest on their laurels, forget that technology is growing at a break-neck speed and when they do realize that they had been living under the rocks in some remote mountain so far, the entire market and landscape would have changed. Always watchout for the latest new tech related to the industry or product that you are in to and be proactive to introduce them in the market.
Watchout for smaller competitors and startups; One should not disregard newer entrants because they are very fleet on their foot. A small competitor who has lesser number of employees also means that decisions can be taken more quickly, there is more independence of thought given to employees to try out newer ways of marketing the business or creating the product and most importantly the bureaucracy does not exist. For example, in a large company with many hundreds of employees, one decision might have to go through multiple levels of approvals high above and by that time a decision is taken a smaller fleet footed competitor would have implemented a newer scheme or product and might have even bought it in to the market. Hence one needs to always keep a track of what is going on by reading the news, magazines, trade journals etc. related to the business they are in.
Reverse Supplier Tactics; One rare method of eliminating the competition is to choke their product supply route. It could mean buying out or acquiring important or critical supplier companies and prevent them from selling to your competition. It could mean buying raw material suppliers and prevent them from supplying to your competitors (for manufacturing businesses). However one also needs to make sure that what they do is legal in their country or state. Some countries have strict rules in edge case business tactics, hence it is good to keep a legal team handy to help you with the process.
Acquire Competitors; One common way of removing competitors is simply to acquire them and eat them up. For example, if a small competitor is selling Product A which you feel that will threaten your main business, then the tactic will be to buy out the company and kill the product (stop selling it). Needless to say, companies needs to take advice from their legal team before trying out such ideas.
Things that one should not do; Now that we have seen some strong tactics to undercut or eliminate your business, there are also some tactics that one should avoid because they are either illegal or can backfire. Some examples are smudge campaigns, hand-twisting, bribing, using political clout etc.