How to outdo the competition


Every business has competitors, which means your Job One likely includes helping your business stand out from the crowd. Happily, chances are that you know your market at least as well as your competitors do, making it somewhat easier to adapt the ideas that follow to your business' specific needs.

Some of the ideas will need a tweak or two; others will be right on the mark. And some I've suggested for one industry may be ideal in your different situation.

One caution: Being the low-cost provider of whatever product or service you offer will make your business visible. On the other hand, low prices, while often effective in short promotional bursts, may also make your business disappear.

Be careful with price.

• In the home repair sector? Send a Thank You card to a customer who called for help with a leaky faucet or overflowing drain. Maybe you fixed a sump pump or repaired blinking kitchen lights -- or something similar.

A handwritten note that says, for example, "I'm glad we were able to fix your leaky faucet Monday afternoon, and I hope you'll call us whenever a plumbing problem arises. Tell your friends and neighbors about us, too" will make your business stand out because so few plumbers-roofers-and other handyman types ever say "Thanks for the Business."

The same approach works for computer repair businesses, business management and HR consultants, and the like.

• Do something for new mothers, perhaps teaming up with a local florist to jointly send flowers to mom.

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• If manufacturing is your game, be aware that high schools can be a source of interns, at least some of whom may turn into full-time employees. You'll have to find the right school counselor for a conversation, but in the past high schools and manufacturers in the northwest suburbs have supported such programs.

• Sponsor the park district soccer team, the school band, a Scout troop or something similar in your community's July 4 parade. Provide supplies and help the kids build a float. (Remember your sponsorship sign.)

• Several suburbs have popular -- and in some cases well-known nationally -- community bands that present weekly concerts during the summer. Sponsor a performance. Your sponsorship should include an announcement during the performance, a page in the program and perhaps some other recognition.

• Is food service your thing? Vary the day and situation, but once a week surprise a family by buying dessert for the family's youngsters; or have a special treat for seniors who are regular customers. People will talk.


Invite a seniors' group -- perhaps from a local church or other organization -- in for breakfast, a special hot soup lunch during the winter or an ice cream dessert in the summer.

These ideas will generate positive attention -- or, better, may spark your own creative approach that helps your business rise above the competitive crowd.

Oops: My column last week about COD's Innovation DuPage accelerator identified Ann Rondeau as College of DuPage president. She left in December. Brian Caputo became interim president in January. My mistake.

© 2019 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Read Jim's Business Owners' Blog at

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