What to do if a competitor is stealing your customers

Early in my career I managed a retail store in a small town. There were only two such stores in town – mine and the competitor’s, and we worked just down the street from each other. For the most part, we each had our own customers but once in a while there was cross-over. His customers would come to my store and mine would go to his. Sometimes I’d see long-time customers of mine at his store and it was dismaying, but I know the reverse is true as well.

Competition is good for business and it’s fun. But it can also be cut throat (even when you maintain a professional, legal approach to your competitiveness).

Although you don’t always know when a competitor is stealing your customers, sometimes you do. Here’s what to do if your competitors are stealing your customers.

NOTE: When I say “stealing” I don’t mean it in an illegal way. There are rules and laws that companies need to play by and I’m making the assumption that both you and your competitor are in fact remaining compliant. When I say “stealing” I mean that your customers are going to your competitors and those competitors are happily serving them.

So here’s what to do…

  • First, decide if the customers are worth the effort. Some customers are not worth the effort. I recall one customer who threatened to go to the competition and it was welcome news to my ears because he bought from me so irregularly and was such a ridiculous amount of work that letting him go freed me up to serve more of my better customers.
  • Build a relationship with your customers. Don’t just tell them that they’re important to you (which is what most businesses do), show your customers that they’re important to you by taking an interest in their lives. For professionals like real estate agents and financial advisors (and some other similar professions), I always recommend that you truly get to know your customers. Send them birthday cards and call them. Send them flowers on their anniversary. If they play on a sports league, go to their games and cheer them on. Don’t be a stalker but be a friend. Check out these 61 questions to strengthen your client relationships and build loyalty.
  • Remind your customers of the value you provide. This is a huge complaint I have with a lot of companies (although if I were honest with myself I’d have to admit that I’m probably just as guilty of this). Once your customers are sold on purchasing from you, most businesses stop selling. But you have to continually “resell” to your existing customers and remind them why they’re buying from you. Otherwise they make the mistake of assuming that your competitor is exactly like you… and as soon as your competitor offers something cheaper, then loyalty is at risk.
  • Wow your customers. Truly wow them by shocking them with how unbelievable your service is. (Hint: This is rarely done).
  • Be proactive. Don’t wait for your customers to come to you. Go to them and help them see that they need to buy more of whatever you’re selling.
  • Constantly ask your customers how you can help. You may find more ways to extend your own products or services but you might not… helping your customers might mean simply understanding what challenges they have in life and making introductions to others who can help them.

The worrisome truth is: Competitors are stealing your customers because you aren’t demonstrating the most important thing: That you are indispensable. Demonstrate that you’re indispensable and prove it over and over again and your competition will eat your dust.

The 5:00 AM challenge (6/30)

This month I’m challenging myself to get up at 5:00 AM every day.

I didn’t hit my goal today.

For the first few days of the month, it went really well. Yesterday was different, though: I got up at 5:00 AM was up for a couple of hours and then crashed and slept for about 3 hours. And when I woke up today, I felt just as tired as I did yesterday morning. So I just crawled back into bed and slept until 7:45 AM.

As I suggested yesterday, I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that it’s weather-related (big rain forecast for the next couple of days and I usually get migraines leading up to it). If that’s the case then I should be back to normal by tomorrow or Friday.

As I reflect on other possible contributing factors, it’s also possible that my evening routine played a part: Normally I try to do other things that are fun and relaxing in the evening. But Monday night and last night I was at my desk all evening trying to wrap up a few things that I was at risk of falling behind on. Therefore, I extended my working day and disrupted both an enjoyable/relaxing evening and my pre-bed routine (which is essential for a good night’s sleep).

My plan today to get back on track: Work hard all day during the day get back to an enjoyable free-time evening (it will help that I have a Toastmasters meeting this evening, so I definitely won’t be stuck at my computer), and restart my pre-bed routine.

Well, I’ve got some writing to do and I’m hoping to wrap up a major project for a client.

Stay productive!

The 5:00 AM challenge (5/30)

Good morning! It’s day 5 of my 5:00 AM challenge and I got up at 5:00 AM today. So far, so good.

Getting up was not horrible but not amazing. I had a good sleep but I’m still a little sleepy and my fingers don’t seem to be typing as precisely as they usually do. But I will prevail!

One of the best motivators for getting up this early is the amount of work I get done in my day. I get in a full day of work before noon and that is HUGE. Not only am I getting more content written for my clients but I get it done the morning, which gives me an open afternoon (to work or have fun or have meetings or whatever) and an entirely free evening. It’s so much of a total lifestyle improvement that I’ve become a proponent for getting up early.

What makes it possible to get up and stay up?

  • Positive reinforcement of the lifestyle improvement.
  • Accountability of writing blog posts to share my success and failure and struggles.
  • A system — i.e. turning on the kettle before I turn off my alarm.
  • Getting active right away (through stretching).

Is there anything else? I think these are the four reasons right now. Eventually I might add that it’s a personal habit and I’ve become wired to do it but I’m not there yet.

UPDATE 10:00 AM: I was struggling through my work and by 6:30 I was still struggling. At one point, I closed my eyes to think of something and totally zoned out, almost to the point of falling asleep! I realized that I was still REALLY tired and hadn’t been able to shake it yet (something that I was usually able to do within the first few minutes of waking up). So I laid down and promptly fell into a deep sleep and woke up nearly 3 hours later! Wow!

I’m not sure what that happened. I suspect it’s one (or a combination) of three things:

  • Part of me worries that it’s cumulative exhaustion from getting up at 5:00 AM for the past 5 days. I don’t think that’s it but I’ll find out in another few days or so it this hits again.
  • It’s entirely possible that it’s weather-related: Usually I get pretty nasty migraines about a day before it rains. Well, it’s supposed to rain tomorrow; late last night I started feeling a bit of a headache (the early indicator of a migraine for me) and today, although it didn’t feel like a migraine, it’s possible that it was indeed something similar. This is not that unusual of an occurrence for me, especially when it gets really hot and then a big rain drops the temperature dramatically — which is what the weather forecast indicates.
  • It’s also possible that I pushed myself a little too hard yesterday and then just didn’t get enough recovery sleep: Normally I try to have a busy day and a free evening but yesterday I ended up doing a bunch of stuff at my desk right up until bedtime. It wasn’t really work-related but it was at my desk, at my computer, basically in “work mode” as I caught up on emails and did some planning for the weeks ahead.

I’m awake now, feeling great, and ready to move forward! And I’m noting this in my mind to see if there’s a repeat pattern in the future and what similar conditions were present!

What I’m working on this week (May 4 – 8, 2015)

Looks like it’s been a couple of weeks since I posted one of these. I like writing them but sometimes I just forget to do this.

Looks like I have a great week ahead. There’s a bunch of projects on the books, primarily larger projects (print books or ebooks) as well as recurring projects because it’s the beginning of the new month so that’s when I send out a lot of client posts for the month.

Here are the books and ebooks I’m working on this week:

  • Finishing and publishing a print book on leadership for a client in the home service industry
  • Writing a print book on communication for the same client as above
  • Writing a print book on sales for the same client as above
  • Writing a print book on a specific kind of real estate investing for a real estate investor
  • Writing a print book that will actually be a sort-of “secondary sale” to the above book
  • Writing an ebook on a specific kind of real estate investing for a real estate investor (a different one than above)
  • Writing a book on real estate investing that will be sold at a conference I’m attending in June (stay tuned for more info on this project)
  • Writing a book for myself (more on that in the coming weeks)

Those are the books and ebooks I’m working on. Of course when I say “writing” I don’t mean “completing”, I just mean “working on”.

I’m also doing something I haven’t done before to help keep me moving on these projects: This will be my first full week of my personal challenge to get up at 5:00 AM every day, but I’m also writing down my wordcount every hour of my working day. I’m doing this because it’s an effective way to track my productivity. Yes, writing a simple volume of words isn’t the most important thing (they could be garbage words, right?) but I’m trying to get a sense of how my level of productivity rises and falls through the day and this is the best (albeit imperfect) measurement I have.

Well, time to go. Gotta get back to all these books!

The 5:00 AM challenge (4/30)

Good morning! Day 4 of the challenge. Got up at 5 AM again. Feeling good. With the exception of Sunday, it hasn’t actually been that hard, but I’m sure it will get more difficult soon enough.

And here’s a strategy if you’re sleep but really want to wake fast: Smash your toe really hard against your kitchen counter. Just kidding, though, it actually sucks.

Getting up at 5:00 AM is a challenge but staying up is the underlying challenge. I mean, it’s easy to get up and turn off your alarm but it’s harder not to crawl back to bed (which is what I was doing before and one of the things that prompted me to start this challenge).

I’ve mentioned in a previous 5:00 AM challenge post that one of the ways I ensure I stay up is to put my alarm clock by the kettle so that I turn on the kettle as I pass it on my way to turn off the alarm clock, and the fact that the kettle is on somehow makes me feel committed to staying up.

But that’s just the first step. Once the kettle is going, I also start my morning routine by stretching. And that usually lasts until the kettle is finished, then I head downstairs to my office where I fire up the computer. As the computer is running its start-up processes, I review a number of things: My state of mind (am I productive or do I need to address feelings of unmotivation?), my personal purpose and vision and goals, and then my plan for the day. Then I open up my blog and write a blog post… and my day has begun.

You don’t have to have the same routine as me in the morning but I’m a big believer in creating a morning routine or ritual that you follow. Part of its value is to get you moving and doing stuff first thing, but part of the value of a ritual is that you can move through a checklist of things without committing a lot of brainpower to the “what should I do next?” question. I don’t want to have to answer that throughout the day and I especially don’t want to do that while I’m just waking up. If I can be instantly productive first thing in the morning then that helps to set the tone for the rest of the day.

So what should you create for a morning ritual? I don’t think it should be too complicated. I do think it should feed your mind and body and motivation. I also think it should get you doing something on your daily action list right away so that you embed a mindset of productivity first thing. In the past I’ve had other things in my morning ritual (working out, reading, study) and I’m always tweaking it.

On that note, I’ll wrap up this blog post and that will finish up my morning routine and get me rolling.

Stay productive my friends!