Amidst the recent news announcements about new products, new distribution centers, new management, etc., this headline stood out: “Tractor Supply Closing Wisconsin Location.” What? That’s right. The same Tractor Supply that opened 107 locations in 2014 alone faced the business reality of closing a store.
This leads to a hypothetical question that every dealer should be prepared to answer: What’s your strategy when a big box or mid box competitor in your area closes? I asked just that question in a survey last week to dealers. The amount of responses: Zero.
Your schedules may be too full for hypothetical questions. A good share of you are dealing with record snowfalls, while others are taking advantage of unseasonably warm temperatures and yet others are still battling drought conditions. So, it’s OK to skip a survey exercise, but don’t skip the question altogether.
A shift in your competitive landscape, especially when it’s related to a major retailer, can offer tremendous opportunities for an independent dealer. You need to be ready. Monte Wyatt, business coach and Rural Lifestyle Dealer columnist, offers some strategies to win — or win back — customers.
1. Reinforce that you are locally owned.
Top to bottom and inside and out, make sure there is no doubt that you are part of the community. This means obvious mentions, such as in your advertising or on your websites, of course. Make sure you’re budgeting for community donations and volunteering on boards and committees. And watch for ways to recognize and encourage more subtle ways, such as congratulating a customer whose son or daughter had a big game on Friday night.
2. Share your uniqueness.
Make sure you know what that is — knowledge, service, products, etc. — and prove it every day. Lots of businesses have taglines that mean nothing. Make sure your unique value is tangible and constant and different enough that it sets you apart from the remaining big boxes or independent competitors.
3. Leverage your loyal customers.
View loyal customers like currency to secure new customers. Ask them why they chose you instead of the big box or other choices. Then, ask them if you can share that. If they’re concerned about privacy, offer to just use their first name. Don’t underestimate the power of official testimonials.
4. Hold an open house.
A competitor moving on is cause to celebrate. Use it as a way to say, “We’re here to stay.” Approach it like you are introducing your business to the community for the first time to guard against a boring event
5. Post a sign that says, “Welcome XYZ Customers.”
There’s no reason to mince words. You want them as customers.
You don’t often get a break from the competition, so make the most of it when an opportunity presents itself. And, adapt these strategies for the inevitable time when a new competitor moves in.
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