Hey guys, Ken Courtright here, from Today’s Growth: Growing Business Today. Happy to join ya on this beautiful Friday, if that’s the day you’re listening to it. This is Episode 22. It is titled “Present Competition.”
The reason it’s titled that is because this week is Competition Week. These three episodes were dedicated to discussing the ins and outs of competition, specifically the three types, how to recognize them, and what to do about them. Whether we recognize them or not, there are three types of competition. Every single entrepreneur and business owner are battling these three continuously. They are entropic competition, physical competition, and present competition.
The prior two episodes were dedicated to discussing entropic competition, which is the reality that life in business naturally erodes. It is just a fact of life. It’s the theory of entropy; it’s the law of entropy. The law of entropy says, everything man-made or God-made is built to go from order to disorder.
On Monday’s episode, Episode 20, I spent a good deal of time discussing that businesses are built to break down. If you leave them alone, they don’t go from disorder to order. They go from order to disorder. Our bodies are built to break down.
I give the example of leaving a car in the desert for eighty years. If you come back in 80 years, is it a car? I’m here to say that I don’t think so. I think it’s a chunk of metal. And I don’t think it will start. I’m not even sure it would look like a car. I explained exactly how the law of entropy is going to work against us. I provided examples of how the greatest business growth killer just might be self-sabotage. I really enjoyed Episode 20.
The last episode from Wednesday, Episode 21, was dedicated to the type of competition that most people associate with the word “competition.” That is the one of the physical sense. If you own a shoe company, you probably view the competition as other shoe companies. If you are a furniture repair person, and you go to a trade show with and about furniture repair, the people in the booths sharing space next to you, you would probably view them as physical competition.
This episode, Episode 22, is on present competition. Present competition are the competing forces that are present during and after your product’s buying cycle. It’s been said that sometimes your biggest competitor is the business next door with the larger, fancier, outdoor electronic sign, or the website that is always outranking you, even though they may not be in your industry.
On this episode, I am going to dive into how to notice the competition that is present for your clients but not necessarily present to you. This episode is dedicated to discussing the competition that is present to your potential clients, but it is definitely not necessarily present to you.
Let’s talk about this. I saved present competition for last because in order to see present competition, it takes a little bit of an out-of-body experience. Let me explain.
Sometimes You Need Another Set Of Eyes To See Present Competition
When an author writes a book, and I am in the middle of my third, the author cannot be the editor. Why is that? The reason is they wrote it. It is physically impossible for them to see their own errors. Because they wrote it, they think it’s correct. The reality is I don’t care how great of a linguist or writer you are. The author always makes grammatical challenges inside their book, and they need to be edited by someone who has a completely different vision. It takes someone with a different eye to edit an author’s book.
Tiger Woods was once asked why, when he was statistically the best golfer who ever lived, he would need a coach. If you think about that logically, if you are the statistic best golfer to ever walk the planet, why would you have a coach who is definitely inferior tell you what to do? He was asked once, “Why do you have a coach?”
He said, “It’s simple. I can’t see my own swing. I have trained my coach to view videos of my best thousand swings, and now my coach knows if I’m picking my head up too soon or if I’m dipping my head down too low.” He needs an outside view when his head is coming up too quick.
When evaluating your present competition, you have to somehow find a way to step outside of yourself and view the presale, sale, and post-sale aspect of your operation from a non-entrepreneur viewpoint. You have to view it from your customer and potential customers’ vantage point. It’s not easy to do.
We have to wake up one day, put on a client hat, and go driving down the street, kind of literally. Here is a great example. Prior to the Internet, companies would hire secret shoppers to go through a pre-purchase routine, all the way through to customer service by returning an item. They would then type up a report to the company with their findings. These reports had seeds of present competition. Those reports came back showing that maybe there were no end caps displaying the products. They had a hard time finding them in the supermarket, or the customer service folks were rude. But the company would know right there they were losing sales on the front end because there were no end caps, or they were losing referrals on the back end because the customer service people were rude. These factors were absolutely present in the before and the after of the buying cycle.
Restaurant owners often do what is called a soft grand opening, just with their staff, friends, and family, sometimes even for a whole week, just to make sure that the point of sale system is working and the chef is not burning the steaks, even that the plumbing is working. With the five restaurants in the family, we have never opened the restaurant on a soft grand opening without finding major issues with what is called present competition.
For now, the definition of present competition is anything that gets in the way of ensuring a sale or a referral.
Years ago, I owned a good-size electric sign company. We had dozens of sales reps. I trained them. You drive around this country, even in Alaska—we had 400 signs there—anywhere your car can take you, and you look for businesses that have wooden signs out front. Either wooden signs above their front door or wooden signs above the street on a pole, I don’t care. If they have a wooden sign, you knock on the door and you show them what we have.
We had data from the small business administration that proved that a sign with lights on the inside would have 350% more views per day than a wooden sign outside with no lights at all or lights shining onto the sign.
Let me say that again. We had data from the Small Business Administration that said this: If all you have is a wooden sign out front, then you get x% of traffic. Even if you shine lights on the wooden sign, the lights are being shined onto the sign where if you have an electric sign, the lights are coming from the inside, shining to the people in the car. The lights are pointing to the people in the car. It was our job to explain to a business owner that the traffic driving by is literally a riverbed of potential customers, and they are currently fishing with a hook with very little, if any, bait at all. We have evidence that proved that within the first 90 days of installation, a wooden sign would be viewed by approximately 8% of cars driving by, but then it would quickly fade into the scenery, with a visibility of about 2% of the cars that would notice the sign each day. On the flip side, an electric sign, either a neon sign or a sign with plastic faces and lights inside, would be seen by almost 30% of people driving by within the first few months. And it would then settle into a 9% ongoing visibility. If they have a wooden sign, they have a 2% ongoing visibility, where if they have an electric sign, it’s a 9% ongoing visibility.
We would have their current traffic counts on hand. We would go to the county courthouse, do a demographic count, and it would say 100,000 cars per day driving by. Currently we know right now that if they have 100,000 cars per day driving by, they are currently getting 2,000 people to turn their heads, absorb the brand, absorb the message, and their product.
On the flip side, if they let us take down their tired old wooden sign, then we can assure them that they can count on an immediate surge in their business due to the very large bump in visibility those first few months. But more importantly, after everybody in town gets used to that new change, that new bright light in their peripheral landscape, they can count on not 2,000 people driving by a day, but almost 8,000 people a day would drive by. That is 8,000 people a day now paying attention to them, their brand, their product flow, etc., as opposed to 1,500-2,000.
It gets better. We had further data that showed every inch of letter height on a sign was readable from 30 feet away. That meant a 10-inch letter height on a sign could be read from 300 feet away. Obviously a 20-inch letter height allowed businesses to be seen from almost a quarter mile away. For some of the businesses we worked with, we were able to change out a wooden sign with six-inch letter height to an electric sign with a 20-inch letter height. 20 inches of the height of the letters is almost two feet tall.
We had over 400 handwritten testimonials from business owners that show incredible growth. I remember letters stating things like, “By you guys walking in, you saved our business,” or, “We doubled business in 60 days.” I remember these letters being incredibly emotional. They were emotional because the business owner thought they were doing the best they could. They thought they were putting their best foot forward. They thought that word of mouth would carry them. They thought the best form of advertising was word of mouth. If the best form of advertising was word of mouth, how in the world in 60 days did we double dozens of businesses?
The question is why do businesses grow immediately when you switch them from a wooden sign to an electric sign? It is simple math. An electric sign eliminates present competition. A wooden sign allows all the other local business signs to be noticed and read by passersby. An electric sign forces people, sometimes even blocks away, to notice the bright new shiny object. This forces visibility away from the other buildings, signs, flags, and noise on the road. Electric signs draw attention to it and remove attention from surroundings. The surroundings are the present competition.
Are You Using A Wooden Sign?
The question of this podcast is: Is your business, in a metaphorical standpoint, using a wooden sign, which allows all the noise around you to be seen and heard? Or does your business have an electric sign, which forces everyone to notice your brand, your message, and your products?
Seth Godin believes one of the greatest learned skills an entrepreneur can acquire is the skill to create a purple cow brand. I am not going to dive into it too deeply, but in his famous book Purple Cow, he tells the semi-true story of him driving across Interstate 80. He looks to the right, there is a purple cow grazing by a barbed wire fence. He gets out of his car; this is before cell phones. He touches the cow, and there is no dye on his hand. It’s a stinkin’ purple cow. He gets in his car.
What do you think is happening to him when he gets into his car? He is white-knuckle driving. He cannot wait to get to a gas station or a hotel. He has to tell somebody he saw a purple cow. A purple cow is remarkable. It has to be remarked. It has to be restated to a family member, a friend, even a stranger. Purple cow brands have an electric sign all around them. There is an electric sign in the pre-sale, during the sale, and post-sale.
Let’s look at a company called Apple. I think many people have heard of it. Prior to buying an Apple product, what do we notice in the marketplace? Has anybody even noticed their storefronts? Even if you have never bought from Apple in a storefront, their storefronts are so popular they are in the news. What were they the first store to ever do? Full glass fronts. Why? I’m guessing that a full glass front with the incredibly bright LED lights is like an electric sign lit from the inside. Could you picture that Apple would be where it is today if it was an all brick front with a little front door and a sign out front that said “Apple?” I don’t think so. There is a great chance you could drive by and not even see it. I don’t think they would be on the news with this remarkable business concept of the all-glass front.
Is it possible to drive by an Apple store and not notice it? No. At the storefront level, they control present competition. They outshine every possible neighbor.
Let’s talk about the buying cycle of Apple, whether online or in a store. For those of us that have purchased, we know that the buying cycle, the actual transaction, is the shortest, simplest, and quickest check-out process of any company today. There are no extra questions. There is no upsale. Compare Apple to Vista Print. If you have ever bought at Vista Print, I think there are 32 questions after you have given them your credit card. It takes ten minutes to get out of their website after you get your receipt. But Apple is about saving you time. It’s about your life, your time. It’s not about Apple. I think the world resonates to that. They are not trying to build an email list; they are trying to build awesomeness. They are trying to build a purple cow brand.
Let’s talk post-sale. This is where it really shines as a purple cow. For any of you who have ever bought an Apple product, you know exactly what I am talking about. When you take the package home, opening that package is half the fun. The experience they provide, the physical touch points with the elevated packaging, is literally exquisite.
It starts with the packaging. The boxes are exquisite. The inside packaging almost cries out for you to save it. The final perfect shrink-wrap method states that this product was made just for you. Nobody has touched it or messed with it. There are no fingerprints on it. This thing was wiped down clean and ready for you.
I know I’m crazy. I know I’m not alone. I have four MacBook boxes still in my office closet. I don’t have a heart to throw away the boxes my laptops came in. It’s sick; it’s disgusting. But the realty is I so respect the Apple brand. It’s goofy.
Apple has consciously chosen to make sure that they control 100% of the present competition. They want to control the feeling and what you see before you walk into the store. They want to control it during the transaction. They want to make sure that after you see the sale, all you see is Apple.
Let’s talk about some ways to sniff out present competition. Let’s start with your website. Do you know 100% what the world is typing into Google to find you? Let’s say you’re a chiropractor in New York. Are people typing in, “good chiropractor in New York?” Are they typing in, “How to fix back pain?” Are they typing in, “Threw my back out. What do I do?” If you don’t know exactly what your potential clients are typing in, then you have to hear the podcast titled, “How to Read Your Client’s Mind.” You have to.
Let’s say you sit down and hear that podcast. Then you run what’s called your keyword silo, which you will run into and through in that episode. Hen you will know exactly what your potential customers are typing in to find you.
Guess what you do next? You type those phrases into Google. Guess what comes up on page one? Not search results. What comes up on page one or two of Google, when you type in what the world is searching to find you, I don’t ever want to view those as search results again. They are, but in this case, what comes up is present competition.
Here’s what’s crazy. If you’re not on page one or two of Google for at least the top fifty phrases in your keyword silo, then one of three things has happened. Either I’m a bad teacher, or you haven’t heard my other podcast, or you’re just lazy. I know I’m not a bad teacher, and I know you’re not lazy because you are listening to this podcast where other people are watching TV or listening to the radio, so that means you have simply not heard the podcast that showed you how to get on page one of Google. Or you may have heard it but have not had the time to put the work in. that’s fine. Bottom line is you are at least on your way.
Let’s get back to present competition. Again, guess what comes up on page one or two of Google? Your present competition. The insane part of what comes up often is I’ll bet half the listings that show up don’t even do what you do. They possibly and quite probably are not even in your same industry. It doesn’t matter. They are in the way. They are the electric sign to your wooden sign. Does that make sense? They are in the way. It doesn’t matter if they are even competing with your presale audience because odds are 50% that they are not. But they are the electric sign to your wooden sign.
I can’t remember the prior episode, but I spoke about how moving up just one spot on page one or two in Google search results will literally double your traffic with each jump. If you are currently in position seven on page one of Google, and you can move up to spot six, you literally doubled your traffic on that page of your website. That is like growing the letter height on your electric sign. How cool is that? That is awesome.
How Google Ranks
To see how to jump to page one on Google, listen to episodes like “How Google Ranks” or “Reading Your Customer’s Mind,” and you will be on your way if you do the work. If you don’t do the work, don’t bother listening to it.
Let’s go back to present competition during an actual sale. I want to briefly touch on offline sales and online sales. Offline sales revolve around one simple phrase. This is called the genetic code. The genetic code is awesome when you understand it.
How many times have you walked into a doctor’s office and in 30 seconds you have looked at the carpet, the walls, how the receptionist is dressed, how she talks on the phone? You know right now that this doctor’s office is totally professional, on a mission, and totally caring of the patients. Or you don’t know if maybe he has been around for a while and he has let things slip. You don’t even know if he has the most current tools. You know it. You absolutely know.
Here is the key of the genetic code. The genetic code of a website and of an office is always a direct mirror or representation of the founder or the current management body. If the founder’s particular about detail, the physical place of that transaction will be particular. If the founder is not particular, it’s going to clearly show that.
I have walked into offices where the carpet is filthy, the receptionist was either using foul language or dressed inappropriately, and I simply walked out. I know immediately that if the founder allows that type of experience on the front of the business, the experience inside the business, the actual transaction, has a chance of being the same.
Present competition gets very dangerous is online, on the actual website of the transaction. I love two different tools that sniff out present competition inside your own website. Clicktale or the user flow section of Google Analytics. Clicktale is expensive. User Flow is obviously free.
Clicktale is you put a pixel or code on your website, and it tracks every mouse movement on very page of your website. After 2-4 weeks, you can watch a movie of where everybody goes on your website, and you can clearly see the dead spots or the blockades. If you see people hit this navigation button, which opened up this page, then they dropped down to the bottom, hit this button, and opened up the shopping car, you will see right there in the shopping cart where it asks for email, and everybody put their email. But maybe there is a mandatory field of phone number. Clicktale will show you right there that 80% of the people leave because they don’t want to give you their phone number. Clicktale is phenomenal.
What I like even better, especially because it’s free, is in Behavior of Analytics. You go to the bottom of that one, and it’s called User Flow. It gives you a physical representation of what people click on your home page. When they click a navigation button, where do they go next? They use a physical family tree flow so you can see that everybody loves these sections, but nobody is going to these sections. So you can make your adjustments. That shows you right there that there are things on your website that are distracting people away from the sale.
Use Available Tools to Uncover Present Competition
Both tools expose present competition to a sale. I cannot express, after using either of those tools, how many times after just removing a navigation button or a section of a website or just a mandatory field has released a floodgate of sales on a given website.
Finally, let’s touch briefly on present competition during post-sale. Perry Marshall’s incredible book 80/20 provides the evidence that a proper post-sale follow-up opens up the least expensive advertising channel ever invented: existing customers. We have heard many times that the most expensive line item on a balance sheet outside of payroll is often customer acquisition. This book proves where most companies fear calling their customers to find out their feelings and get some feedback is where the absolute gold is.
When you actually pick up the phone and call those people that just recently bought and ask them one simple two-part question, your business can explode overnight. Here is the question: On a 1-10 scale, how would you rate our pre-sale, sale, and post-sale experience? If it’s anything other than a 10, you then ask, “Do you mind telling me what would make it a 10?” Then you collect all that data from all those customer calls and see if you spot a pattern. I’m going to bet that you do. Once you see the pattern, you fix what is broken, and then you are truly in business.
That’s it for now. I’m Ken Courtright from Today’s Growth: Growing Business Today. If you feel inclined, jump into iTunes on a desktop, throw me a review, and subscribe. Until next time, I will see you on the trail. Take care.