Be strategic and force the competition to respond to you

When competing in business, you need to choose your “angle,” so to speak.

Do you offer the most value at the best price in the market? Are you the most innovative, or are you known as cutting edge? Is your customer service so superior to competitors that no matter the price, you beat out the competition because people simply enjoy doing business with you?

Regardless of the way you in the compete market, smart businesses are always on the move, always finding better ways to connect with people and to offer their product and service. During a midterm state of the agency address to The Fedeli Group a while back, I provided the latest numbers and other key business information to employees.

These meetings give us an opportunity to reflect on where we are strong, and identify where we can improve and move the needle the rest of the year. I quoted Warren Buffet, who in a 50th anniversary report, warned businesses of the ABCs: arrogance, bureaucracy and complacency. These will destroy a business.

And, these ABCs apply to your personal life, as well. If you are arrogant in business, you’ll have the same problems in life. If you cheat in business, you’re cheating in life. Figure out who you are and where you want to go.

What strategic way will you compete in the market? Play to your strengths. And by focusing on what you’re good at, you’ll force the competition to play to your strengths, rather than vice versa. You’ll make them compete where you are strong, whether that’s price/value, innovation or customer service.

Best price, best value, low cost
Consider Costco’s business model. By providing customers with the best value and lowest cost in the market, the company has won loyal business from people who seek just that. Costco isn’t trying to be trendy or innovative. The company knows its customer service must be up to par, but this is not Nordstrom. Its business angle is value, and consumers can gain access to that value by becoming members of Costco. The business knows its strength and plays to it.

Innovation
This is Apple. Customers will pay more for an Apple product than competing technology because of the company’s strategic edge as an innovator in the market. Apple is innovation.

Customer service
Nordstrom’s premiere customer service gives every shopper a personal experience. The store’s employees go above and beyond to please customers. Every customer is important — every shopper gets special touches that make buying clothing, shoes or other merchandise at this retailer a pleasure.

Are there people who take advantage of the overly accommodating customer service Nordstrom provides? Of course. But Nordstrom will not stop doing what’s right for customers because of that 10 percent that do wrong. The business knows that 90 percent of its shoppers really appreciate what the store has to offer and choose it over others because of the experience they get.

Umberto P. Fedeli is president and CEO at The Fedeli Group.