Sales & Marketing: How To Compete With The Big Box Retailer

In the previous article (Feb. 2007 Ledger, pages 54-57) we discussed the challenges facing locksmiths while trying to compete with the big box retailers. The top challenge was the economies of scale the big box retailers represent and the locksmith's inability to compete against them based on price alone.

We also briefly discussed the advantages a locksmith has over the big box retailer: Specialized Experience, Certified Technicians, Knowledgeable staff, Needs Assessment capability, Commercial Quality Products, Product Breadth, Commercial Expertise and Product Exclusivity.

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses allows your business to create an effective strategy aimed at your target market. So, what is your target market? What market(s) do you want to serve?

While this answer will be different for almost every reader, first take a close look at the strengths listed above. Your real leverage is in your knowledge. What markets need that knowledge the most? Here is a sample list of potential target markets where a locksmith would have a significant advantage over Big Box Retailer: Hospitals, Schools, Retail Stores, Commercial Buildings, Churches, Apartment Complexes.

The key question is, “Which customers can I serve better than the Big Box Retailer?” To do this, always refer to the list of advantages you have over a Big Box Retailer. This will help you look at each market in a way that asks the question, “What are they looking for?” “Why is a locksmith a better source for their needs?” And finally, “How do I communicate that to the customer?”

You also need to consider what potential this market provides in your area. Let's use apartment complexes as an example. If you have 40 complexes in your immediate area, yet you are only doing business with four of them, this may prove to be an adequate opportunity for your business.

Once you determine the opportunity this market has for your business, you must then ask the question: "What are they looking for?"

In this example, an apartment complex owner may be looking for high quality locks to strengthen the security of his business, masterkeying capability so the staff has access to each unit or a reliable rekeying resource as tenants move out.

Why would an apartment complex choose to go to a Big Box store to purchase security products?

· Convenience, possibly they are located closely to a Big Box Retailer

· Comfort level, because employees tend to have more comfort going to a source they have experience with.

· Price, specifically if they are only looking for one or two replacement locks to fix something that has broken.

With the reason they would go elsewhere established, let's look at why they should not!

· Service. A locksmith can provide services that are not available through the Big Box Stores such as masterkeying, rekeying etc.

· Advice. A locksmith can become a valuable resource by providing advice on not only how to fix a customer's security issues, but also on how to prevent them from happening again by choosing the most appropriate solution.

· Accountability. The complex is dealing with a professional who installs locks for a living

· Efficiency. By creating a relationship between the complex and the locksmith, the complex has a direct line to a security professional any time an issue comes up.

How do I communicate this message to the market?

The first step in communicating this message is to find out who needs to receive it.

How do I reach the key decision makers?

There are a variety of ways to identify the key decision makers including making cold calls, using local directories or using database services. Let's take a look at the data available for purchase in your market.

One of the most reliable resources for finding contact information and mailing information for a particular audience is InfoUSA, a database service which keeps records of mailing information and contact information via SIC Codes. (An SIC Code is a numerical code given by the US Department of Commerce to classify different industry segments.) Once you have determined the proper SIC code for our example of an apartment complex, you would then define your geography and a database will be generated. While there is a fee and some times there is a challenge in getting up-to-date contact information as employees change jobs, it is an effective resource which does not require cold calling to generate your information.

In the next article, we will provide you with an online resource which will help walk you through the use of InfoUSA and how to transform that data into an effective marketing message and mailer.

How do I get my message in front of the key decision makers?

Once again, there are a variety of different methods of getting your message in front of your target audience. Some of these include:

· Direct Mail – Sending a series of mailers communicating your message directly to your target audience (Typically works best when combined with phone follow up)

· Personal Customer Contact - Using the age old process of placing a phone call and setting up a series of meetings with potential candidates

· Newsletters – Via e-mail or snail mail

· Personalized Letter – personalized communication directly to each apartment complex in your area.

In this example, we will focus on direct mail pieces. Direct mail is a useful resource in this example because of the ability to target a small and specific audience member without a high cost or a wide audience.

In the next article, Arrow will help you craft a targeted message and provide you with a simple resource to create your own mailer professionally and easily. The new technology we will be providing to accomplish this is unique, simple and effective.

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