a business or web site on the Internet, it is often
easy to become intimidated by large companies or web sites
offering similar services to you. While you may not be
able to match the million dollar advertising budgets,
or employee numbers of your competitors, there are many
things you can do to make your business or web site stand
out from the rest. The aim of this article is to provide
you with an approach, and the motivation to take on those
competitors you never thought you could match!
rest of this article, I will be using the example
of a hypothetical small web hosting company called "Host-It".
As you may or may not know, the web hosting industry is
an incredibly competitive market, which makes it an excellent
example for this article. With the huge amount of large,
well established companies active in the industry, it
would be incredibly easy for a small company such as Host-It
to be swallowed and taken under in the first few months
of operation. We will explore some of the tactics directors
of Host-It may use in order to gain some kind of advantage
over their large competitors.
What do customers
It is important to
get back to basics and ask yourself "What is it that
customers purchasing this service require?". Knowing
some of the decisive factors in customers choices is very
important. If you know what your customers want, you may
be able to tailor your marketing strategies to emphasise
Making a list:
our example of the Host-It company, directors may come
up with the following list (after researching customer
needs) of six features customers desire in a web host.
1. Excellent support
2. Package features (eg. disk quotas, email boxes, monthly
3. Special language support (eg. ASP, Perl, PHP, C++)
4. Reasonable pricing
5. Easy account management
After reviewing this
list, Host-It directors could choose areas they believe
their big company competitors are lacking. These areas
would then become areas of focus for both product development
The first item
in the list (Excellent support) is often an area big
companies leave a lot to be desired. This opens the door
to create a major selling point for the Host-It service.
The reasonably simple task of ensuring the timely response
to queries could have customers singing your praises,
generating a lot of new business.
Suggestion: If it
is feasible for your business, setting up an account on
one (or some) of the major instant messaging programs
(eg. ICQ, Yahoo IM) can leave an excellent impression
on customers. Think how happy you would be receiving a
reply to a query almost instantly!
Getting Info for
may be asking just where you are expected to get such
information about your customers needs. Below is a short
list of suggestions to get you started.
* Survey customers.
* Participate in discussion groups relating to the subject.
You will often find forums around the Internet with real
customers discussing what they like and dislike about
certain products and services. Participating in these
discussions may also get you business!
* Visit web sites and read newsletters which deal with
* Put yourself in your customers shoes and look at it
from their perspective.
Personalize your Service
I don't know about
you, but I find it much more appealing when I can actually
talk to the owner or employees of a business throughout
the use of their service. A personal response to an order
beats auto responders any day!
There are many
aspects needed to be considered when personalizing
a service. Listening to user feedback, being available
to talk and offering opinions on different issues all
contribute to personalizing a service. The common goal
of many of these aspects is to build trust with your customers.
with your customers is an incredibly important, and
often underestimated, aspect which must be considered.
To put it simply, no one is going to buy anything from
you on the Internet if they do not trust you. Personalizing
a service is an excellent way of gaining this customer
Our Host-It team
may decide to incorporate some of the following things
to help personalize their service and gain trust from
- On sign up, Host-It
should ensure customers have the contact information for
appropriate personnel to voice their queries or comments.
This information should be presented in a way which welcomes
- Every so often, Host-It directors should contact customers
personally to make sure everything is going well and answer
any queries they may have. Many customers will not go
out of their way to give feedback unless asked specifically.
-Keep customers informed of updates, changes and upcoming
-Give explanations for any down-time which may occur
-Provide an area for customers to give feedback and talk
with each other.
The last point I
am going to make in this article, is that you must charge
reasonable prices. Although you may not be able to match
the extremely low prices of big companies in some industries,
it is important that you do not over-charge your customers.
Nothing scares customers off quicker than ridiculously
If you use the techniques
described in this article, customers may not mind paying
that little bit extra. Especially if it is going to get
them a service which the big competitors do not provide
the best thing you can do as a small business or web
site starting out on the Internet is to understand your
customers and their needs. You must exploit the advantages
many small businesses have over large companies. Using
the techniques outlined in this article, along with your
own initiative and creativity, will help you gain respect,
build a reputation and hopefully reach your goals!
About the Author:
By Brad Culbert
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