There’s a big misconception in the entrepreneurial world that has everyone thinking competition entails your “enemy” is sneaking around poaching customers from “their enemies”, who include you.

In some industries this is true. Go look at a job headhunter or a sports agent, and you’re going to see someone who is well and truly in the business of poaching.

But when it comes to most small businesses – and especially for an ittybiz – this doesn’t exactly apply. And here’s the difference.

In poaching-rife industries, someone is after a specific person. Someone’s sitting out there thinking “How can I get the proverbial Young Michael Jordan
or Young Bill Gates to jump ship and come to my team?”

Presumably, sweeten the pot enough, and the “customer” comes to YOU.

In every other industry, it’s not the same.

You don’t see Starbucks calling you up saying “What can we do to keep you out of Dunkin’ Donuts?” You don’t see Wal-Mart saying “How can we get you to STOP shopping at Target?” And you don’t see your corner grocer standing outside of the big chain grocer handing you coupons for their place so you don’t walk into their competition.

In general – and yes, this is a generalization – a huge percentage of buying behavior is initiated because of awareness, not persuasive skill.

This is especially true in books. We usually buy based on what we NOTICE, not what we’ve been sold on.

Sometimes, all you need is a pile of bunnies.

Way back at the beginning of IttyBiz, I wrote an article about a home cleaning place that had a huge pile of pink bunnies – and nothing else – in their window. The name of the store was “Dust Bunnies Away,” and it caught my attention.

I’m sure it caught a lot of people’s attention. And while it didn’t convince or persuade, I’ll bet a lot of people who had been thinking about a home cleaning service looked at that and said “I think I’ll finally get around to making that phone call.” And Dust Bunnies Away wins.

It’s like that with your ittybiz.

A lot of your customers are already theoretically ready to buy – or at least, start seriously thinking about who they might buy from soon – and the businesses who do a good job of getting those people’s attention will get a lot of sales coming their way.

Since you didn’t go to school for marketing (which in the final analysis is probably to your advantage), you’re probably not sitting around thinking “What are the most effective ways to make sure people know about all my products and services, and how can I do a bang-up job of communicating my differentiation and polarization factors?”

(If you do sit around thinking that on your average Tuesday, have a drink. You need it.)

But this is something you DO need to think about, at least until you’ve thought about it enough to make sure your bases are covered. You’ve got to learn what will make sure no one misses the full story of what you do and what makes you different, or they’ll be a lot less likely to buy from you.

Why this is so important, and therefore you need to not screw it up.

We’ve already said that the bulk of the ittybiz market doesn’t get customers by poaching. So where do they get them?

Well, there’s two ways. Not the only ways, but important ones nonetheless.

The first is by getting their attention. We won’t cover this in these lessons, because that’s a he topic. That goes into networking or advertising or SEO or PR or a hundred other things. We don’t know enough about your business to even begin telling you what’s the best and most efficient way for YOU to get eyeballs on your website.

But we can talk about the second thing, which is KEEPING their attention when they get there.

And what we mean by this is making damn sure that when they arrive at your website, you communicate your brand, your positioning, and your offerings in as clear and compelling a way as possible.

So that they see enough about your ability to serve people like them, based on the things they care about.

Because THEN you’ll keep them from leaving your site and finding a competitor.

Think about your own buying behavior.

How many times have you walked into a storefront because they had a sign that said the right thing? Something like “Same-day service” or “Kids menu” or “Open 24 hours?”

The same store that you may not have noticed for years changes their sign from “Joe’s Dry Cleaning” to “Joe’s Dry Cleaning – Same Day Service!” and now you’re there on a regular basis.

You always NOTICED Joe’s Cleaning, but now Joe is relevant to YOU, who always forgets your cleaning until it’s too late. Well, it’s not too late for Joe, so you’re giving him money now.

It’s a subtle change, but a completely different outcome.

There are things your customers care about.

If they don’t see those things in your website – or any other way you get their attention – they’ll be a lot more likely to just see you, say “Huh,” and keep bustling along until someone else very similar to you communicates relevance in a way you don’t.

So much of being competitive is showing up and TRYING.

And that’s what this lesson is all about.

What this means for you.

You need to spend some time scoping out your competition.

Essentially, if you were Joe, we’d say “Go look at all the other dry cleaners in town and look at their signs, their storefronts, their phone book ads and their flyers and see what they’re doing that you’re NOT doing.”

Not so Joe can just copy them. That probably wouldn’t work, because if everyone’s doing the same thing, it’s going to get tuned out.

But everybody’s not doing the same thing.

You can look at one competitor’s website and realize that they have a much more compelling tagline on their header image and think “Oh, I should add something like that.”

You can see that your competition is making a big deal about their “trilogy” or “epic series” or this really compelling character and realize that you do mention them on your site, but you’re not drawing attention to it.

You can notice that another competitor’s sidebar has a really compelling layout that features happy reader reviews and it hits you that you don’t have an easy way for people to notice your happy readers.

And you notice these things not to see what you can steal, but to see why a person who visited your website and theirs might not think yours is memorable enough to stay.

Awareness can be curative.

It’s time to get aware.

Sometime soon, spend a few hours cruising websites of your direct competitors (people who write the same stuff you do you do) and your industry peers (people who write completely different stuff for completely different readers).

You’ll learn more than you realize.

Find the stuff that you can implement fast, and start getting that into play. That will help keep more people on your website long enough to give YOU their money instead of other people.

(Because your competitors don’t actually steal your readers. They generally get the ones you let drift away.)

Now, let’s go to the fourth lesson.