There is no getting away from the fact that the building supplies industry is one of the most competitive around. In 2014 alone, the industry contributed £103bn to economic output in the UK. The sheer scale makes it a breeding ground for fierce competition on both a national and international scale and, as in any industry, the SMEs can often find it hard to move up the ladder and compete with the larger companies.
The Builders’ Merchants News, a leading publication in the industry, is also no stranger to the high competition levels. In a recent blog written in reference to SMEs, they discussed how the big boys are able “to get in front of your current customers very quickly”. The article also went on to detail that if larger companies push a particular product line, they can swipe SME’s customers out from under their noses before they could even noticed.
Yet, as a building supplies SME, you have access to some big, almost unfair advantages over the biggest players and these are things that they could never match. These 4 tricks can often ensure repeat business, brand advocates and customer loyalty for years to come, leaving your competition far behind.
1. A personal service
In such a competitive environment, making any kind of headway in penetrating the market can be a challenge. Particularly when your competition has a seemingly endless sales and marketing budget to make a lot of noise and entice your customers to the dark side.
Great people are often a competitive advantage in their own right. Being able to pick up the phone to a customer and be on hand for advice or even to have a chat about last night’s football scores – your team is your biggest asset. And the savviest suppliers will all be using the latest CRM tools to portray your service superhero image, when in fact, all the information you need to be your customer’s new best bud is safely stored online.
Your team will know that Joe the builder is a Liverpool fan and is going away on holiday in a few weeks when they next give him a ring to see that his most recent order was as expected. Picking up for the phone for a friendly chat alongside the usual business often says more about your company than you could ever possibly measure. Every call doesn’t have to be a boring sales call.
2. Inject some personality
This is one of your biggest plus points over any big name in the industry; injecting some personality into your business is also a relatively simple thing to achieve.
To get your prospects and customers to connect with your company personally, your company needs to have some personality and come across as someone they want to work with in the first place. Your website is often your shop window so this is a good starting point. Include photos of your business at work, inject a fun tone of voice to your copy and tell your story exactly how you want it to be told.
Always make sure that your content is written in the same way that your customers would speak. Use the same words and phrases as them to make sure that they can relate to you really easily.
If you don’t already have one, why not look at introducing a company blog? And if you do already have one, ensure that you’re making the most of it by sharing all of the latest news and industry happenings, spill the beans on new product launches and even share great customer stories.
What’s more, when you have no corporate constraints, you can natter with your customers on social media, craft unique messages that pack a punch within the market and take a different approach when it comes to your marketing.
3. Smarter selling techniques
Another big opportunity to get ahead is to get smart in your sales tactics. Take an afternoon to sift through the sales history of your customers. Keep a beady eye out for any easy sales opportunities. Have they bought bricks from you for the last 10 months but not cement? Are they buying nuts from you but not bolts? Do they tend to buy a bulk order of handsaws from you at this time of year but are MIA?
Your customers must be getting these items from your competition, so it makes sense to package these up into a well-priced offer to ensure your customers spend more of their budget with you. Personal promotions and smart offers can often tempt many customers back.
Technology is undoubtedly your best friend here to prevent any spreadsheet-induced headaches. No one wants to spend a few hours trawling Excel looking for sales opportunities. Sales software can do all the legwork for you and alert you to the ‘easy to close’ opportunities that you want to act on sharpish.
The Builders’ Merchants News article we mentioned earlier also pays heed to the benefit that technology can bring: “New companies that embrace technology are able to deploy new products and services very fast.” Technology is one of the best ways to outwit the competition, both large and small, and, for the most part, you don’t even have to do anything but click a mouse!
4. Diverse product range
There’s little use in selling the exact same thing as your competition. In doing that, your only way to successfully compete will be on price alone, something that could devalue your brand in the long run.
If your product range is becoming increasingly similar to that of your competitors, the cost of switching will be a big fat zero for your customers, making it easy for them to switch their loyalties overnight if you’re not doing enough to keep them around.
As discussed in the BMN article, “discover a problem your customers are facing” and introduce a product line to meet that need. It’s likely that more of your customers will be facing the same problem. Act fast and secure their business ahead of your competition.
Don’t be afraid to branch out and stock some new lines. Introduce a new range at a discounted price to whet their appetites and secure their loyalty for the long run.
To see how sales-i can give you a competitive edge, get in touch today and we’ll show you.