Target your competitors – Take aim! Ready! Sell!

Take a look at the top-selling products in your space – the major competition. Try to find out where they are weak.

For instance, if you look at customer reviews, you’ll easily see where your competitor is going wrong. Sometimes you’ll find customers really unhappy about a weakness; other times, you’ll need to pick up on hints.

For instance, customers might target a lack of reliability or robustness. They might say the goods ‘felt cheap’, were the wrong color, or were difficult to use for some reason. Don’t just look at the one-star reviews – a five-star review that says “If only the carrying handle was more comfortable” will show you that there’s a weakness you could exploit.

You don’t need to knock the competitor’s product. But if, for instance, their product was unreliable or not robust, then you can use positive words that target that weakness and show your product is better: “unbreakable”, “robust”, “strong”, “99 percent accuracy”, “never breaks down”. Sometimes you can just change your listing to focus on those aspects, and you’ll see sales increase.

Sometimes you’ll need to change the product. For instance, suppose your two biggest competitors are both criticized because the carrying handle isn’t comfortable. You should talk to your supplier. How can you make it softer, or more ergonomic? Can you replace a molded plastic handle by a stitched fabric handle? Can you give the handle a softcover?

The problem may not be so much with the product as with customer service. Some sellers on Amazon, if you read their reviews, don’t do a good job of helping their customers when things go wrong. One interesting example is mattress sales. One vendor demands customers send a faulty or unwanted mattress back – which is difficult, because these mattresses are designed to expand when you unpack them, and costly because they weigh a lot.

Another vendor donates the unwanted mattresses to local charities who will pick them up and sends a new mattress to the customer for free, no quibble. It’s just the sort of thing you’d want to do if you’d read Vendor A’s reviews, isn’t it?

Sometimes the problem is that the product isn’t well defined. For instance, if customers buy a product intended for hobby use but think it should stand up to professional use, they will be disappointed. Products where it’s difficult to find out what size to purchase for a particular task (for instance, how small is a ‘small dog’ for a collar or carrier?) can also provide a good opportunity for you to target your competitors’ sales.

You might do that, for instance, by including an infographic with pictures of the breed and type of dog for which each size of carrier is appropriate – as well as answering customer questions like “Which size is right for my French bulldog?”

Finally, take a look at your competitor’s keywords. Are they targeting the right ones? For instance, they may sell a “pocket knife” but they haven’t included “penknife” or “tactical knife” or “folding knife”… You could get a higher ranking on those search terms – they might also be cheaper for you to buy PPC advertising.

If your competitor doesn’t bundle products that clearly belong together or doesn’t offer a multi-buy discount, those are other ways you can steal a march on them. If I can buy one wooden spoon or a pack of three, and benefit from a saving on the multi-pack, as a customer I’m going to want to get that saving. Or if I have to buy paints and brushes separately from your competitor, but you put together a landscape painting package with lots of greens, blues and browns, the right paints and perhaps even a sketchpad, if I’m just starting out, I’m going to come to you and buy the package.

Remember, it’s cheaper to learn from your competitors’ mistakes than from your own mistakes!

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