What is the essence of your business?
Do you think it's easier for someone from the 'outside' to look in to an industry and understand the essence of whom - or what - their competition is, and what service, benefit they provide?
I wonder about that because as a conference speaker, I get to ask these two questions often. Yet I find most, especially small business owners don't have (what I think) are the right answers.
Therefore often have the wrong focus.
Here's an example, and I would love your opinion:
Let's look at the travel industry. We all know there are travel agencies you can go to - such as House of Travel, Flightcentre, Harvey's. These businesses have consultants working for them, on site.
There are also several large Travel Broker businesses in New Zealand.
This is the option for experienced travel consultants that want more flexibility or freedom and to work for themselves. Travel Brokers are self-employed, most often work from a home office and are supported with systems, deals, software. Like a franchise.
I recently worked with a national group of travel brokers and conducted a pre-conference online survey. One of the questions was 'what are your two main competitors'? Only 21 out of 39 (54 per cent) had the internet as a main competitor. By the way 100 per cent had a named travel agency as their competition.
I would have thought that 100 per cent - all 39 would have had the internet as one of their main competitors.
Why? To answer that, I have to explain what I personally think (and would love your opinion on) as to what their real service is to their clients.
I asked them that question "What is it you are really doing for your clients? What is your service"?
"We provide a great travel holiday". "We provide great deals". "We provide a memorable holiday". Were the responses from the audience. None of these were the answer I wanted to hear.
My thoughts? I think the internet has changed everything for the travel industry. And I'm sure they'll all agree.
Not only can people book online, and book at reduced prices (there are lots of online tour and cruise discounters), they can find out everything they want to know about a holiday spot, a ships reputation, the staff at resorts, things to do in a city from the thousands of comments, blogs, videos, photos online. Why even Google maps satellite view can show you how close to the beach the resort really is.
Because computers, tablets and smartphones are so ubiquitous in New Zealand, I believe that the real service of a travel broker or a travel agent is simply this. A time saver.
In 2012, we can do it for ourselves. DIY. However, think of how time poor people are today. So the main reason I'd go to a travel broker is to save my time.
Do you agree?
The take home from this is to really look at your customers.
What are their problems, their pain? What tools do they have to work with? Why would working with you solve these problems/pains? If you look at your business from this perspective, without preconceived notions or prejudice you'll get to the essence of how you help your customers.
And you can market with and work to those strengths.