Monthly Archives: February 2014

Is Competition Good For Business?

Before we dig too deep into the pros and cons of whether competition is good for business, let’s take a look back about 100 years … give or take a few years.

When Henry Ford started manufacturing automobiles, he wanted to produce vehicles that the “average” person could afford.  In doing so, he established a certain loyalty to his brand among the people who bought his cars.  That loyalty has spanned generations.
Ford Logo

Imagine what it would be like today if Ford had not had any competition in the marketplace.  Every car on the road would be a Ford and there would be no question what you would drive.  Ford would dictate what color of cars would be available, what features they would have, and most importantly, what you would pay to own one of their vehicles.Chevy Logo

We’re not experts in which started first, but General Motors entered the automotive scene as well and competition began.  People who drove Chevrolet vehicles were proud of how they looked and performed.  It wasn’t long before Ford people gained a disdain for Chevy people, and Chevy owners grew to dislike Ford people.


In the process of competing, both companies grew and expanded the world of motor vehicles in the United States.

The competition was good in that it kept both companies operating, although each saw an erosion in market share.  As America’s population grew, the market kept growing, so although each company may have lost market share, the overall market expanded enough to keep both companies in business.  Competition opened the door for other car manufacturers to try their hand at taking some of the market share, creating jobs and choices for consumers.  Consider your choices for automobiles in today’s market, including the foreign competitors.

Back to the topic at hand.  Competition is good for the consumer in that it generally keeps prices lower and options more plentiful.  Where it can be detrimental to business is when the business dilutes it’s own market by competing with itself.

An example is orange juice.  Orange juice now comes regular, with added calcium, mixed with other fruits such as pineapple, and a few other varieties.  The same manufacturers compete against themselves for consumers by offering various choices and, in many cases, the consumer is unaware of the differences, except if it means a higher cost to them.

A business owner needs to understand that, in virtually every situation, there will be competition for the consumer’s money.  Your business needs to develop strategies to embrace the competition by knowing how and why your business is different, and minimize the risks of competing against yourself.

A key element is to know your customer.  What are their preferences?  You may think you know what they want, but do you know – for sure – what they really want from your company and your products and/or services?  Why do they, or should they, want to do business with you instead of your competitors?  How loyal are they?

In our humble opinion, yes, competition is good for business.  It keeps your business on its toes and makes you work harder to stay on top or to gain more market share.  To use a comparison, athletes get better when they compete against someone better at their sport.  Competition in business makes your business better and is better for the consumer.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand


Designing a Print Ad

We have been receiving some good feedback, and although we’re not sure which of our posts are most appreciated, we will keep providing marketing and business-related topics designed to help you operate your business more profitably.

Before getting into how to design an attention-getting print advertisement, however, let’s remember that marketing involves every aspect of your business.  Everything from how your parking lot looks to the first impression of users checking out your website, and from how your staff treats customers to what your business cards look like.

Example:  Attended a meeting this morning at a banquet facility where the entrance doors looked like they had been washed with a dirty towel.  Yes, that bad!  Something so simple to do right, yet when done poorly has a tremendous impact on whether to recommend the facility for a wedding reception or other event.  Makes you wonder how they do the dishes.  Suggestion to management:  Fix it, even if you have to do it yourself!

Back to business:  When it comes to designing an ad, remember your audience.  Is the ad – in total – appealing to your prospective customers?  Do you have a headline or other attention-getting device?  Headlines need to appeal to the readers’ interests.  Does it help them avoid pain or obtain pleasure?

As with any message, the first requirement is to get the person’s attention.  The next requirement is to keep their attention long enough to receive and absorb the message so they can act on what you want them to do.  Do you know what you want them to do?  Do you call them to perform that action?  Copy sells.  Art enhances.  Print ad basics.

Print ad design sample 2-11-14

Headlines, traditionally, cover the top of an ad but can be used creatively in other locations to grab more attention.  The sample ad here uses a “Z” design method based on the natural American/English tendency to read from left to right.  The headline leads the eye to the image of the two cats, which then flows down to the logo and across to the call to action.  Pay attention to where the eye is drawn in an ad, because that should be where the most important information is conveyed to the viewer.

In the sample, note that the copy ties to the image, adding relevance to the impression the picture of the two cats conveys.  If you want your potential customers to stop by your place of business, an address and/or directions (including a QR code) should be included somewhere in the ad.  In this case, it’s to call for professional assistance.

Humor can be used quite effectively, but remember that some people will appreciate the humor while others could be turned off by it.  The image of the pointed gun is meant to relate to Brand Irons in a humorous way, but could easily be interpreted as the threat of gun violence if you neglect to make the call.  That brings to mind a topic every business should think about.  Do you have an active shooter protocol in place?

Another ad variable:  The personality characteristics of your desired audience can be used to your advantage in designing your ads.  There’s more in the book, Small Business Owner’s Guide to Marketing.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand




Stop: Think About It!

This thought might seem like a bizarre topic but, when you do stop and think about it, there are far too many decisions you make as a business owner that you probably don’t take the time to think through completely.

Okay, the first question you raise:  Can you ever think through an issue completely?  No … unless you have identified all the concerns related to that issue and have all the answers clearly defined.

Stop sign

Here’s a scenario:  Someone who knows someone in your company comes in to ask for a donation to the youth baseball league in your community.  Odds are you make that contribution at a level you’re comfortable with, unless you’re not a baseball fan or a supporter of youth activities.  It’s kind of a guilt trip when you’re asked.  How can you be against baseball?  Or young people who want to play sports?

If you think about the request logically instead of emotionally, you weigh the variables, such as whether you have the budget allocated for that level of donation.  Can you lessen your tax burden through the contribution?  Will you gain any market visibility or brand awareness with the donation?  Is it a cause you want to be identified with as a company?

That’s one example of the importance of taking a few minutes to weigh your options when asked for a charitable contribution, rather than just handing over the cash.  Whether it’s financial or an in-kind gift through employees donating their time and expertise to the cause, take some time to think about it.

A suggestion that might prove helpful:  Develop a decision making check list to stimulate the thought process when it comes to making critical choices for your company.

#1 might be – Will the choice help us make more money?  Sub-factors for this check point might be:  How soon?  How much?  At what cost?

#2 could be – Will this decision increase our brand awareness?  Build customer loyalty?  Or possibly detract from our brand identity?

#3 – Will this enable us to increase market share in the community or other markets?

#4 – Do we have the budget for this expenditure/donation/expansion?

#5 – What is required of our company to fulfill this obligation or complete this project?  How much time will be required of our employees?

When we’ve conducted fund raising projects for clients, there is often a desire to conduct a volunteer project such as a bake sale or car wash.  These are good events for getting people involved in a cause, but when one stops and thinks about it, these relatively simple events require loads of time for a small return.  If your company or organization had to pay for the volunteer’s time, odds are the event would lose money!

A decision matrix such as roughly outlined above can reduce the risk of making bad decisions, and save money that might be invested in the wrong venture.  And there are times when having an independent third party to provide counsel on the concept is well worth the investment.

Take the time to think it through!

Thanks go out to the community following this blog.  We appreciate your comments and support and hope to continue providing valuable content for you.

Brand Your Work – Work Your Brand