by | Farr Factor

Now there’s a word you don’t see every day! It’s an Old Prussian military word for “focal point,” and in expanded 20th-century military terms, it meant, to take your greatest strength and drive it into your enemy’s greatest weakness (focal point). So outside of any interest you may have in military history, what does this have to do with indoor tanning? Plenty. It addresses the reality that the retail tanning industry is not growing by leaps and bounds as it once was, and now is the time to get serious about what your competitor (your enemy?) is doing that could defeat you on the business battlefield.

Sadly, most tanning retailers don’t know what their “enemy” is doing. We are at times an industry that suffers from its earlier successes. Longtime veterans of our trade have fallen into the success trap and taken their eye off the competition. Case in point: Most new clients that our company consults admit that they’ve never done a traffic count on their closest and most formidable competitor. How can you drive your greatest salon strength into your competitors’ weakness if you don’t know what that is?

Traffic counts done sporadically during a month (Mondays between 4-7pm are good indicators) will give you a crude but somewhat helpful indicator of market share by comparing their number of customers with yours. Traffic counts are simple to do by just sitting in a salon’s parking lot and counting everyone who walks through their doors. But starting your “Schwerpunkt” attack takes more than awareness of market share. It means getting on your competitors’ email lists, visiting their Facebook pages, and getting a secret shopper to report on their service experiences at those salons. (Secret shoppers should be visiting your salons, as well!)

Secretly shopping your competitors can give you feedback on their pricing, current sales, the quality of their staff, changes in their ambiance, the quality of equipment and much more. In military terms, it’s called “G-2.” For example, if the staff at a competing salon are too pushy in signing up guests for EFT, you may want to focus your emails and Facebook posts on your “no hassle, no pressure” approach to helping your guests look good and feel great. You may want to promote that you are waiving sign-up or membership fees, and talk up personal achievements of your staff (first names only) to create some commonality with consumers. A team member who was born and raised in the community or attended a local high school or college may have much in common with your email and Facebook followers. People always prefer to buy from someone they know, like, and trust.

And certainly, “Shwerpunkting” works well when comparing package pricing and promoting it in your advertising. As long as you use the competitor’s real prices, there is no issue of false advertising. If your packages have more value for the same or less money, you may have the weapon to drive a strength into your competitor’s weakness. The same applies to equipment differences. Do you have a piece of equipment that is unique or has more bells and whistles? Drive that home!

Every salon has both strengths and weaknesses. Knowing what your competitors are doing both right and wrong can give you a great conversation starter for your next team meeting, and will help you form your “battle plan.”

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