In the crowded ecommerce world, how do you differentiate your business? Karen takes a deep dive in to this topic in this episode of Conversations with Karen. Click below to listen in.
Or, you can read the transcript:
Phaedra: Hi, everyone, it is time for another episode of Conversations with Karen. This is Phaedra Perkins, CMO, and I am here with Karen Locker. She is the owner and CEO of Solutions4Ecommerce. Karen has been doing e-commerce for a long time. I won’t date stamp her too hard, but let’s just say she’s got a lot of experience. She’s a highly regarded e-commerce industry expert. She built her first eBay and Amazon stores back in 2008. Over time, Karen has built solutions for e-commerce into a very professional firm on a foundation of integrity, honesty, and professionalism. Karen, how are you doing, and are you ready for Thanksgiving?
Karen: Well, let’s see. We have carpets torn half up all over the house, so yes, not really. I guess it’s a good thing this is a corona Thanksgiving. I’ll be doing Meals on Wheels instead of having the whole family here.
Phaedra: I’m assuming that our audience is experiencing the same corona Thanksgiving as well. We can only hope that everyone does have a fabulous time. Today, we actually have a question that was submitted by one of Karen’s big fans. They asked her to address on her next episode, what makes your business different? What is your differentiator? Karen, what would you say to someone on how to differentiate their business from everyone else?
Karen: That’s a very tricky question because everyone has different goals for what they want to do with their business. If you’re just wanting to generate income, and just move product, especially if you use the Amazons and the eBays of the world, then your goals are going to be a lot different, so how you differentiate yourself doesn’t matter as much. If you want to develop a brand, and you want to sell on your own websites, or you want to develop even a brand to sell on Amazon and eBay, the goals you need to do is you need to find the specific things that will make your business stand out to other people.
I’ll give you an example. When we built my business, my goal is people know me. They can call me and ask me questions. They Facebook me, I had seven Facebook messages going today because I’m at the computer. If I’m at the computer, and somebody has a question, I’ll shoot in and answer it. Other people, same type of stuff, same knowledge as me would want you to schedule an appointment. It all depends upon, I’m not big on creating this over professional image as more the reachable in building the relationships, so that’s a lot of it is, are you a relationship builder? Are you a connector? We have a friend, Kat, who is a connector, she connects people to everybody. That’s what she’s known for, so everybody has a different thing.
Phaedra: I know we see this a lot. Can price be your differentiator, long term?
Karen: No, because prices variable and there’s only so low you can go with the price before it’s not even worth it for you to do it. Walmart built the business’s best value. Very few of us in the e-commerce space can compete with Walmart. No matter how cheap we can get it, we can’t sell it cheaper than Walmart can get it. Unless we get a big closeout salvage deal. High price can be a differentiator because you give the illusion through high pricing of being this elite brand. For example, Tiffany’s, all it is is a diamond in a little blue box, but they have built the reputation over the years of being the-
Karen: -old diamond seller.
Phaedra: It sounds to me, if we want to wrap that up in a nice little package, how you differentiate yourself, the answer to that question is, well, it depends.
Phaedra: Potentially, there’s some questions you need to ask yourself, who are you? What image do you want to portray and how do you want to differentiate yourself from your competitors?
Karen: Exactly. The other thing, one of the first things I said is, it depends upon your goals. If your goal is to build a business that you can eventually sell and be totally, then you want to differentiate yourself as having systems and processes and knowledge and the ability to do things. I have some clients that can make deals like nobody else, and then they have somebody do all the rest of the stuff. If your goal is just to make money, you’re not as worried about that. One of the hardest things that I talk about with people, lots of people make lots of money doing retail arbitrage or online arbitrage for Amazon, but that’s really hard to sell as a business to somebody else because it’s your knowledge and your criteria, your feel for it, it’s like the treasure hunters. Their kinds of businesses are harder to define without them in it.
Phaedra: It’s hard to define an exit game in that type of business, I would think.
Karen: Yes, and your business is also defined by you. There was a saying, a friend of ours said a long time ago, and I bet you know which one I’m going to say about a business, that it’s your business, not your baby. You put your heart and soul into it, but not entirely, because, at the end of the day, it is a business. What’s important to you is what you use to differentiate you.
Phaedra: To complete what our friend used to say, “if that is your baby, it is one ugly baby.”
Karen: That is true.
Yes. Yes, indeed.
Phaedra: Summing all of that up, be generous if you differentiate yourself, consider your own goals, ask yourself the important questions, and then figure out exactly how you can do that, but as Karen stated, price may not necessarily be the way to do it. Although we do know that a lot of e-commerce sellers do attempt to go to war on price versus differentiating themselves in other ways.
Karen: Also, you can’t say I have excellent customer service, because is there any seller that you know of that does not say, “I have excellent customer service.”
Phaedra: Everyone thinks they do, of course.
Karen: Exactly. If you want to differentiate yourself with the customer service, it could be the white-glove treatment. You wrap the items in tissue paper with this elegant presentation. There’s a lot of little things you can do to them, and even if you’re selling on Amazon and using FBA you can pre-package your items with your little barcode, that when the person opens it, it’s like opening a gift. That’s what some friends of mine have suggested it as. As when people get my package, they feel like they’re opening a gift.
Now, I’ll give you a prime example. I sell my little round challenge coins, I do not go through all that effort to make them look like a gift. For me, my price point is at the $15, and by the time I pay for shipping and everything out of that for $3, I am not going to be an elaborate shipper, and my customers don’t expect it. If you’re selling jewelry, you’re going to want to make sure you have a nice presentation.
Phaedra: Yes. That’s a good point. A lot of that how you choose to differentiate yourself can depend on the audience that it would be purchasing from you, who are they? What would they like? What is going to impact them and set you apart in their minds?
Karen: Exactly. My buyers for my coins are men, probably, in their 30s or 40s, probably have a military background, and do not care about the proof book.
Phaedra: Exactly, exactly.
Karen: There is no proof book in my listings, but if I was selling something for a woman, who wanted the whole backstory, I would need to have it. You’ve got to differentiate your business. You’ve got to know who your audience is. How you can make yourself different. There’s limitations, and definitely, price is not the one to hang your hat on, nor to say, customer service.
One of the coaches I used to work with, one of the questions she used to ask because you always have their– You’re selling- My brain just went blank on what the word is, but when you present what your goal is, and if someone can say so what to it, then that is not a good one.
Phaedra: No, that’s definitely not your differentiator, then, is it?
Karen: No, I have good customer service, so what? So does everybody.
Phaedra: So does everybody? Yes, so does everybody.
Karen: I have stuff nobody else can get. That’s a differentiator.
Phaedra: That is a differentiator. Definitely, if you have a very unique product that no one else has, then you can definitely differentiate yourself.
Karen: My service, that I provide with my sellers as a staff, that’s all been with me five years. A lot of them anyways. Not everybody can say that, because, five years ago, not everybody was doing what I did. Nobody was really doing what I did five years ago.
Karen: There’s a lot of things. My staff is trained to think outside of the box, that’s a differentiator.
Phaedra: I think you have a lot of accessibility as well in the relationships that you build. I think that’s a differentiator for you as well.
Karen: I tried to build relationships, and what, we hadn’t spoken in over eight years. It’s been a long time. It was like, “Yes, here’s a blast from the past. Hey, can you do this? Can you do that?”
Phaedra: “You still exist.” [laughs]
Karen: “Do you do this?” “Yes.” [laughs]
Phaedra: “And do you do that?” “Yes.” And then here we are.
Karen: Exactly, it happens. You connect with people, and if you connect with people, it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you talked to them. It’s just like when you go to high school, if you ever go to high school reunions, and you have your close friends you were friends with at high school, and it’s like time never went away.
Karen: Building relationships, they always tell you, especially with marketing in anything, your biggest differentiator is, people have to know you, like you, trust you to buy from you. Amazon and eBay, eBay yes, Amazon not as much, because on Amazon you’re just one of a crowd, unless you’re a brand.
Phaedra: What about your own real estate, if you have your own website?
Karen: Your own real estate, you better have those trust signals on that site. Whether it’s a Google or feedback or reviews or whatever you want to call it from your buyers. Because people will pop in your site for two seconds, they’re gonna look and see and then they might bounce right back out if they don’t feel safe.
Karen: Here’s a simple one, just look at the copyright date on the bottom of your page. If it still says 2018, I’ll bounce.
Karen: I won’t pay, because you don’t take enough care and time to update your website to say 2020.
Phaedra: It sounds like this is a conversation that can just take days to finish, if anyone was actually attempting to go through this exercise to figure out exactly what their differentiator would be. Straight from Karen’s mouth to you, decide what your goals are first, because you can’t get to point B if you don’t know what it is. You’ll stay stuck at point A. Determine what your goals are and then who you are, and then you can probably already know how you’re going to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. Does that about sum it up, Karen?
Karen: It does, indeed.
Phaedra: All right. Thanks everyone, thanks so much for tuning in to this episode of Conversations with Karen. You can visit Karen and also schedule a private consultation with her on her website Solutions4Ecommerce. That’s solutions4ecommerce.com. Look her up on Facebook, just search it out, Solutions4Ecommerce, you will find her there. Take a moment and submit a question. Who knows, in our next episode, we might be answering your question.
Thanks again, everyone, we’ll see you next time on Conversations with Karen.