Well one thing that I am doing to distinguish my business from other`s is
1. 24/7 Customer service on Web Hosting and Web development
2. Offer domain name registration, Web Hosting, and Web Development
where the client has access to all their information. This makes them feel secure and in charge. Example: they have access to their domain name registrar, They have a Plesk 7.5 Control panel to add email or any other services that I offer.
3. They can call me anytime and I am available to offer them support even on a Sunday while in church.
4. I give them free consultation, and advise
and most of all I offer them a healthy business realtionship.
5. My "number 1 service" I will travel anywhere in the US to meet with my customer so we won`t be just a voice over the phone.
"This is at no extra cost to them" it`s out of my own pocket.
Suggestion: Since you are about to move to a new city, grab the phone book for that city and sit down with the phone and a note pad and call every wedding planning business in the phone book. Do your own competitive marketing analysis.
By calling every competitor, you will find out where the missing link(s) lies. Ask lots of questions - the ones you know your potential customers will ask. What services do they offer. The prices they charge. References. Websites. And on and on and on. Drill down and get the details. How did you feel while talking to these companies and their representatives. Of course, you will use an alias and wrong phone number when they ask - and yes, this is a "white lie" - but competitive intel gathering requires this stray from the straight and narrow - it is OK. Write it all down. Do not stop until you have surveyed the entire market and what the service providers have to offer. Then ... develop your offering and your marketing plan based on what is missing and what you think is needed. Write your story based on this intel.
Although it is a method of finding your niche, I disagree with the covert call method. Think of it from the perspective of whether you would appreciate someone calling you and taking up time that you could be spending on a true customer. Yes, I know - it`s not personal, it`s business. Yes, the wedding and event industry is competitive. And yes, you do need to find out who else is out there and what they`re offering, but I think there are better ways of going about it especially since in this industry finding out who your competitors are isn`t very difficult.
For one, there are sites like The Knot, Wedding Channel and Wedding Solutions that will have most of the serious competitors listed - you can find them by area and then just pop over to their website and see what they`re about. Visiting websites is a good way to see who is out there and what they`re doing without being deceptive. This is how I have done a lot of my research and I have a great grasp of what is out there and where I can make a difference and "fit in."
When you`re considering competition and what not, keep in mind that this is a highly referral-based (i.e., word of mouth) business. There are things that can be done to gain more referrals (setting up referral relationships with non-competing vendors, such as photographers, caterers, etc). There are also some excellent resources out there that talk about gaining a competitive edge in the bridal industry via marketing and conversion strategies that mesh well with the target markets. One particularly useful resource is www.sellthebride.com. Brian Lawrence is a trusted industry leader (he helped create Encore Studios whom you might know was used by Starr Jones for her wedding invitations) and I think you`ll find he has a lot of great insight.
I think these resources will give you an idea of what you can do to be different and create value that potential clients will crave. :)
Marketing can make or break a new startup. I have found that I can develop a "you scratch my back, I scratch yours" perspective. In doing your market analysis to find out who all of your primary/ secondary competitors are, you can come up with ways to cross market with some companies that aren`t direct competitors. These companies become your cheerleaders.
I also look at the area that I am marketing to and fit my advertising to stand out from the others. Like in one area, my competition has the phone book ad and some newspaper ads, that`s it. I am getting ready to put up ads on movie screens in this area because not everyone reads the ads in the local paper because of the way the paper is laid out and most people only look in the phone book when they are looking specifically for that service, however this community doesn`t have alot to do except eat at the local eateries and go to the movies. For the cost of the phone book ad and the newspaper ads, I can create an ad that will pop up at least three times before a movie starts.
Think of marketing as something that is always at the forfront of your business. Some things will work, and somethings won`t, but too many businesses get boring with how they market and they end up missing alot of potential clients.