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What’s your competitive advantage?

By Scott Lukaitis

Quick question: Why should I buy from your store v. the guy down the block, or online? It seems like a pretty simple question, one that you and your staff would agree on and especially one that is a part of your marketing message. Do you have one or more reasons for your customers?

A logical reason to buy is one of the foundations of good business. But herein lies the problem: Everyone gets the same bikes, gear, helmets, tires, accessories, etc. So what separates you from everyone else? It better not be the price.

If you know the answer to this question, you are better off than most, but if you don't, you have some work to do.

If you do have a couple of reasons that differentiate you from your competitors, are you using them to the fullest advantage? Is it in your advertising and social media? Is your staff helping spread this message? Make sure everyone is on point and delivering the same message. Confusion isn't good for the bottom line or your customer's experience. Get everyone together and make sure the message is consistent. I would suggest, even if you know what your advantage is, go through the exercise and make sure your thoughts are correct and that you aren't missing anything.

If you don't know what your competitive advantage is, then it is time to get to work. Start with a blank slate and determine, in your mind, what your advantage is. Ask your staff, suppliers, other nearby businesses and your customers what their reasons are for buying from your store and compare the two.  

This process can be as simple as a quick questionnaire or as complex as a moderated focus group. The key here is to have an open mind to the results. For many of you, your business is your baby and hearing the good, bad and ugly about your business can hurt. Remember the answers from these surveys will be why people are buying from your store and many times this will be different than you might think it is. Don't get emotional about it.

In most cases, the advantages will fall into a couple of distinct categories:

The physical store — This group references things like location and size of the building. Layout and design, ease of shopping, hours, days of the week. Are you the closest dealership that's open the most hours? Do you have special late nights or early openings to accommodate your customer's schedule?

Your digital footprint — Can customers order online for in-store pick-up? Is your website easy to use and mobile-friendly, and does it provide what your customer needs to make a buying decision? Is your product text the same as everyone else's or not allowing you an SEO advantage? Do you show up in local searches with up-to-date and compelling information?

The items you carry — Yes, all the OEM dealers sell the same items, and we all order from the same distributors, but how are you different? Do you have the largest used bike inventory? How about niche brands of gear or accessories that are typically not available at most shops? Do you carry all sizes and colors for immediate delivery? Are you the store that your customers can count on for the newest items?

Your staff — Are they properly trained to deliver correct knowledge about all of the products they sell? Do they treat the customer right? Have they been in the business multiple years? Have they passed industry tests and classes that certify the results? Are they taking continuing education or teaching others? I feel that this is one of the most important differentiators in business. Remember, in the end, people buy things from people, not companies.

So take the time to sit down and think about why I should buy from you. Your bottom line will thank you for it.

Scott Lukaitis is a writer, photographer and powersports industry professional with more than 25 years of experience from the dealership to the manufacturer level. He owns and provides content for his websites njmotocross.comlukaitisphoto.com and scottlukaitis.com and is currently the chief operating officer at Engine Ice Hi-Performance Coolant.

He can be reached via email at scott@scottlukaitis.com

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