Standing out in an increasingly crowded industry may feel like a monumental task, especially if you’re just starting out with your business.
Looking at the competition may bring feelings of dread. That was certainly the case for many of our panelists at our last Paper X Talk lecture about pricing. But one thing stood out above the rest in all of our advice that night: competition should be viewed as a motivator, not a threat.
By the end of this article, you’ll feel motivated when you look at your competition, because you’ll learn how to work with competitors to build up your industry and keep customers happy—and when that happens, your business will grow and you’ll find the success that matters most to you.
Let’s dive in!
This may sound counterintuitive at first, but when you build up your industry, everyone benefits. Paper florist Jessie Chui of Crafted to Bloom is my competition, but we’ve worked together to build our podcast Paper Talk, to teach workshops, and to build a paper florist directory from the ground up. All of these things benefit other paper florists.
That’s a good thing for us! When there are more paper florists in an area, access to supplies and workshops and customers increases.
Work with your competitors. You can help each other with setting prices, solving problems, and referring customers. When you build up the industry as a whole, you’re creating a bigger pie. Both you and your competition can end up with bigger pieces of that pie in the end, if you work together to do the hard work of growing the community.
Some years ago, I invited Jessie to join an Instagram pod made up of paper florists who were all at about the same stage of business. The idea was to strengthen our online presence by lifting each other up. We engaged with each other’s posts. We helped our own followers become aware of these other amazing artists.
And Jessie and I will continue working together in the future alongside other paper florists. Next year we hope to hold a workshop in South Korea, collaborating with Jasmine Sing of Merremade who has been selling and teaching about paper flowers there for years. You can listen to our Paper Talk episode featuring Jasmine here:
One reason I don’t publish prices on my website is because I want to connect with my customers first. I find that when I start a dialogue about options and we start talking back and forth, customers are much more likely to accept a higher price. They quickly see that I have experience and expertise.
At our Paper X Talk fresh florist, Erin Shackleford of Camas Designs shared that she follows a similar process with her wedding customers. If she threw out a number, most brides and grooms would be scared off. She needs time to understand what they want, to educate them about fresh florals (like why they can’t expect affordable peonies in August), and how they can compromise to get them what they want at a price they can afford.
That sort of engagement takes time, but it pays off in the end. Customers will accept a higher price if they have a relationship with you.
A great way to build authentic relationships with customers is by engaging with Instagram comments. Instead of focusing on how many likes you get or how many followers you have, pay attention to the people who are putting in the time to comment. Strengthening that core customer base through engagement—not just chasing more likes—will lead to more sales.
One of the questions we received at our Paper X Talk lecture was about what to do when your competition copies your work. How do you stand out if another brand tries to be just like you?
This can be infuriating, and our panelists had some great insight into how to handle this. Jesalyn Pettigrew of Mossy Gate Flower Farm said that sometimes she has to unfollow and avoid working with certain people. She can’t let herself get caught up in what the competition is doing, she needs to figure out what she needs and wants to do.
Erin echoed this sentiment. She had to figure out what her real goal with owning a small business was. What was going to make her happy? What would success look like to her? That was much more important than someone copying something she’d done.
If you focus on that, instead of what your competition is doing, you’ll be able to meet your goals and grow as a business. If someone does copy your work, you’ll already be way ahead of them since you’re focusing on your own goals and moving forward.
Our Paper X Talk conversation covered all of this information about the competition and much more. Remember, you buy the lecture for only $37, or bundle the entire lecture series on pricing for $97. And if you still have questions after watching, all of our panelists are more than happy to answer questions through Instagram DMs or in our Facebook group.
Here’s what else you can learn:
If you’re not sure if the Paper X Talk lecture is for you, listen to Jessie and I discuss the competition on our podcast for a little taste of the content you’ll unlock:
I look forward to getting to know you better and sharing my paper flower journey with you.