You know competition is a harsh reality of business, but did you know your most dangerous competitor just might be yourself?
Anyone in business knows how much competition exists for virtually any product or service, online and off. For every service you can provide, there are a million others ready to do the same thing. For every great product your invent, there are a slew of factories around the world ready to copy and mass produce something similar. As technology advances, business owners continue to search for new ways to stand out from the competition. Many have turned to sites like Facebook and YouTube to spread the word, thinking they’ll be the magic bullet that helps their dreams come true; instead, they learn the bullet is pointed directly at themselves.
Does your business have a website? Hopefully it does. If not, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to connect with and sell to your customers. But if your website is sending visitors away to places like Facebook, YouTube, and Amazon, there’s a good chance you’re competing against your own interests and losing business.
Think about it like this: If a customer walks into your store looking for a product, do you sell it to them? Or do you send them to Walmart to browse similar items? Obviously, you want them to come to your store and buy from you, not further enrich Walmart’s board of directors. Now picture what happens when someone visits your website. Does your site help visitors find the information, products, or services they’re looking for? Or does it send them to companies like Facebook, eBay, and Amazon, where they’re distracted by competing offers and ads? Does it answer your visitors’ questions and fulfill their needs, or just encourage them to visit YouTube, where they end up watching videos about kittens or competing products? Does it clearly explain what you offer and how it’ll help your visitors, or leave them cold, confused, and frustrated? Put simply: If your website encourages your visitors to do anything but buy your products or services, you’re competing against yourself.
Don’t be your own biggest competitor! If you use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, work to send people from those sites to yours, not the other way around. Remember, like any other competitor, such sites don’t care if your business survives, only that theirs does. Post your videos exclusively to your site instead of uploading it to sites like YouTube, who gleefully promote videos from rivals next to and after your own. Direct Facebook fans to your own website, where you can connect with them free from the distractions of friends’ messages and rivals’ offers. Make sure your website clearly states what you offer and how it meets your customers’ needs, and make it easy for them to find what they need so visitors don’t go elsewhere looking for the services or products you could have provided.
Of course, having a presence on sites like Facebook and YouTube isn’t always a bad idea. Maybe your customers want to gush about how great your service is, or rave about how wonderful your products are, or post comprehensive video reviews detailing the benefits of your offerings. Chances are, they’re doing it on sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube instead of your website, and that’s perfectly fine. Some people spend more time on social media than anywhere else. Some think Facebook is the internet. Some people feel lost and uncomfortable interacting with anything else but their favorite social media site. No matter the reason, they’re talking about you and spreading the word about your offerings, and that’s a good thing no matter where it happens. But spend some time and effort finding ways to funnel that interest and passion back to your website (an environment you control), instead of keeping it exclusively under the thumb of multi-billion dollar companies who collect and sell your private information while leasing ad space on “your” page to your competitors.
Business is about competition, and chances are you’ve already got enough of it. Don’t make it worse by working against yourself. Make sure your website fulfills your visitors’ needs, and work to send them from social media and partner sites to your site, not the other way around. As Robert Heinlein wrote, “There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch”, and just because sites like Facebook or YouTube will let you post things to their sites for free doesn’t mean it’s in your best interests, or that they’re doing you a favor. After all, they’re in business too, but their product is the data they quietly collect from you and your customers, not the satisfaction they gain from your status updates. Don’t be afraid to leverage the benefits of such sites, but always be aware of their true cost.
Remember: You alone are responsible for satisfying your customers; everyone else is just a competitor.