How a Computer Consulting Business Can Take on National Competitors
If you own a computer consulting business that serves small companies in your local community, one of your biggest never-ending battles is getting new clients.
But many times, your prospective customers are not only evaluating your firm, but they’re also checking out the competition. Competition’s a good thing, because within reason, competition generally proves that a market exists for your services.
Yet, there are many different kinds of competitors that a typical computer consulting business can face. There are direct competitors, indirect competitors, pseudo competitors, and even wannabe competitors.
So what do you do, when your relatively small firm, that may size-wise be anywhere from just yourself up to perhaps a handful or two of employees or contractors, has to go head-to-head against national competitors...such as Geek Squad (a Best Buy subsidiary), Tech Depot (an Office Depot company), or Staples Tech Services?
The first thing you need to do is make a conscious decision that national competitors are not your direct competitors. After all, if your firm generates anywhere from $100,000 to $2,500,000 in annual revenue (or your local currency equivalent), how can a company like Best Buy, with $16,260,000,000 in annual sales (yes, billion with a “b”) really be your direct competitor?
The second thing: be prepared in your marketing materials, such as the “Compare Us” page on your Web site, and in your pre-sales meetings to directly address these issues.
With that in mind, consider these five simple ways that you can take clients away from national competitors:
- Explain What a Single Point of Contact Means to Non-Technical Small Business Owners. While national competitors offer small businesses national-brand-name peace of mind, most non-technical small business owners and managers want, need, and crave something entirely different: a single point of contact with one, and only one, highly-skilled, completely-empowered IT professional. Small business owners have no time or patience for finger pointing or cop-outs like, “it’s not my job.”
- Give Your Clients Direct and Immediate Access to the CEO. While national competitors generally try to offer complete accountability and great follow-through, those values are not always practical to deliver on a national scale or package into an SKU. Your prospective clients need to understand that your company has no clunky bureaucracy in place, your staff turnover is virtually non-existent, and that every client has direct and immediate access to your CEO’s mobile number and personal e-mail address.
- Teach Your Clients How to Compare “Apples to Apples” (and Not Oranges). National competitors often put their best and brightest staff on major accounts... and send their newly-trained, entry-level technicians out to handle small business accounts. As a result, small business owners that hire national competitors often pay top dollar for newly trained technicians, because a big chunk of the service invoice goes to cover layers of management overhead, fancy commercial retail estate, and feel-good national advertising campaigns.
- Be Transparent About Conflicts of Interest. Any technology provider that sells consulting services and products faces a delicate balancing act. While small business owners want one-stop-shopping, profit-driven product recommendations can undermine your credibility and destroy client relationships. If your firm is a “pure” computer consulting business, and strictly provides by-the-hour product procurement services as part of your overall solution, be sure to tout this as a huge plus for your clients.
- Explain the Math in Hourly Billing Rates, So Clients Can Spot a Deal that’s “Too Good to be True.” While non-technical small business owners might be initially attracted to a relatively low explicit or implicit hourly billing rate, a simple four- or five-row worksheet can very quickly make for more empowered clients. Show how in most technology provider firms, one-third of service revenue goes to technical staff or contractor wages, one-third of service revenue goes to administrative overhead and taxes, and one-third of service revenue goes to marketing and sales activities.
So before your computer consulting business loses another prospective client account to an indirect national competitor, make sure that you’ve driven home these five points loud and clear on your Web site’s “Compare Us” page and your pre-sales meetings.
How do you deal with national competitors? What’s your most powerful strategy for taking clients away from national competitors? Let us know in the comments area below.
Also see Competing with Computer Repair Pricing from Office Depot’s Tech Depot