Authentic action: Standing out in a competitive landscape

© iStock
© iStock
With more than 30,000 businesses generating sales of over A$4bn (US$3.1bn), the Australian complementary medicines industry has created a highly competitive landscape.

In an age of digital disruption it is vital not to become complacent. This is especially the case when loyalty and success are difficult to hold on to, with competitors rapidly taking advantage of opportunities that you may have overlooked. 

Natasha Flynn
Natasha Flynn

Be authentic​. Authenticity requires your business to have an identity before it can be authentic in its brand proposition. 

Know who you are​, why you do what you do and how you do it differently. Be clear about your brand identity and sing it loud and proud. There is nobody like you and there should also be a differentiating factor in your business’s identity. 

Authenticity is difficult to imitate. Your competitors may try, but ultimately they just end up looking like they lack their own identity. Nobody wants to do business with an imitator. 

Never over-promise ​and under deliver. Far too often a business sets itself unrealistic expectations of what it is able to deliver. A customer is far more likely to be highly impressed when you add value and deliver more than is promised. However, if you promise something that is unachievable, expect to have disappointed customers on your hands, and bad news travels fast. 

Understand your competition​ and find your niche. If you are not paying attention to your competitors and the new kids on the block, you could be in for a huge surprise and an unforeseen impact to your bottom line. If competitors are offering exactly the same service or product, understand and communicate what it is that makes you stand out from the pack and how you can add value to your customers’ experience with your business. 

In order to be irreplaceable one must always be different​” – Coco Chanel

Market trends change and when people are drawn to new businesses, it is because they are fulfilling a customer’s needs. How can you better serve the needs of your loyal customers? What do they need now that they didn’t need before? Find new ways to engage and reinvigorate your offering.

Don’t forget to give something back. Successful businesses know the value is giving back and not simply taking. Reward your staff for a job well done and they will go the extra mile to go above and beyond. Rewarding staff is not about paying huge cash bonuses. Bring your staff lunch. Provide good quality coffee. Offer experiences. Educate your staff. Help your people to grow. 

If your business is not in a position to offer cold hard cash, often it is the little things about a company culture that inspire your people to get behind your vision and stay the course. Retaining good people is challenging and losing them is costly. Smart organisations are equipped to handle losing good employees, however some people are truly exceptional and their value should not be underestimated.  

Align your business with a charity or a good cause that is in sync with your company values.

A differentiating point in a competitive landscape can be as simple as being a charitable organisation that is taking part in the greater good. 

After all, nobody likes someone who just takes and doesn’t see the value in sometimes giving a little back. It is a demonstration of integrity and good values. It also becomes a part of your story and many customers may continue to engage your services based on the fact that they like who you are, what you stand for, and that you are contributing to a cause that resonates with them; that they are not just lining your pockets when they choose you as a long term business partner.

In the words of the very wise Maya Angelou: “Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it​”.

If your customers like you, they like your business, they like what you do and how you do it, then you are much more likely to be successful and stay successful.  

When the going gets tough, be sure to control the dialogue and regularly monitor customer feedback, especially on social media. If there is a ripple on social media, it can quickly turn into a tidal wave, and a well-executed response can be the difference between a mass exodus of customers or winning the hearts of your existing and potential customers with your novel approach.

I recently tested this theory with a late night, potentially wine induced rant to ailing Foxtel about my dissatisfaction with their overpriced offering, and what happened next was completely unexpected.

I went from being on the brink of cancellation to being in complete awe at their brilliant social media responses. The wit and humour they displayed has given them another six months of my business, a period for them to reinvigorate their service before I close the door on our relationship for good. 

We are working on it, but like all good relationships, it takes two to make it work. I am doing my bit, but only time will tell whether Foxtel and I make it for the long haul. 

Dear Foxtel, I pay you a substantial amount monthly, to bore me daily with the same recycled garbage... The last eight weeks of our long-term relationship have been the most frustrating. You've even made movies boring, repetitive, recycled, same, same... Week after week. I think after 10 years it's time to break up. This relationship is just not working and feels so one-sided. I give, you take. There is this new guy called Netflix - everyone says he is amazing​! - Natasha.

"Foxtel​ ‘Hi Natasha, we're so sorry, this is never ever something we would ever want for us!

“True love is hard to find, and while a fling with something new is exciting, for now, it's just no good long term! Sure, he's there for those late night binges, but will he be there when Winter Comes, does he know his Place To Call Home, can he keep a SECRETcity, and will it all be wentWORTH your while? 

“We're not sure about that, because we're in it for the long haul!
#Relationshipgoals​ #Dontworrywewilltakeyouback"

Clever, right? 

So, how do you stand out? Understand your strengths, know your weaknesses, tell your story, know what your competition is doing, over-deliver on your promises and be authentic. Brand authenticity is impossible to replicate, but you can let your competition die trying. 

  • Natasha Flynn is the business development manager for HealthDirection, the sponsor of Cabot Health products. She has served as a member of the board of directors of Complementary Medicines Australia since 2013.

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